Pohjola/Kallio: ‘Animal Image’
Four years ago, the gifted Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola made his debut on the Edition label with Bullhorn, a small-group album of exquisite modern jazz in the line of descent from Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and Manu Katché’s Neighbourhood, which is to say cool, clear, strongly lyrical but always alert post-bop music with attractive themes and thoughtful solos, handsomely veneered. Last year he followed it up with Pekka, a more rock-inflected but also beguiling set of interpretations of themes composed by his late father, Pekka Pohjola, who was the bassist with the excellent group Wigwam in the early ’70s and the leader of his own band until his death 10 years ago.
His new release, Animal Image, is a collaboration with the percussionist Mika Kallio, who also appeared on Pekka. It was recorded to accompany a film about the “infinite relationship” between man and animals, made in northern Finland by the visual artist Perttu Saksa, who approached the project from an unusual angle by showing Pohjola and Kallio his footage and then cutting the film to their improvisations — a reversal of the conventional method.
With Pohjola using electronics as well as trumpet and Kallio adding bells and gongs to his drums, the result is a restrained but ravishing set of sound pictures, a kind of Nordic response to Jon Hassell’s Fourth World recordings of the 1980s. This is the sound of snowfields and big skies, of glistening details and slow change, and of survival. Its sheer beauty (most immediately expressed in Pohjola’s glorious trumpet tone) and approachability makes Animal Image easy to recommend to people who wouldn’t normally go for something as apparently austere as a series of free improvisations for trumpet and percussion. And now I’d love to see the film.
* Animal Image is out now on the Edition label. The photograph of Verneri Pohjola and Mika Kallio is by Maarit Kytoharju.
Thanks for the recommendation. As a fan of Scandinavian music (from Sibelius and Nielsen to so much more since) from way back when, I was intrigued by the mention of Pekka Pohjola, who is not on the three Wigwam albums I still possess; evidently I came a bit late to them, though he does feature on the Jukka Tolonen Sonet album (Tolonen!) I still have. I had wondered whether PP had played with the estimable and long-forgotten Tasavallan Presidentti, but no. Shame; they were good, too; at least I thought so back then, and have very occasionally enjoyed them since.
Anyway, from an initial hearing, ‘Animal Image’ sounds like it’s well worth investigating further. Meanwhile, I will be checking out new releases from Frode Haltli, Arve Henriksen and Nils Okland,
I too have that Tolonen lp , as well as ” B the magpie ” by Pekka Pohjola.
For a Wigwam album featuring Pekka Pohjola, I recommend ‘Fairyport’ from 1969, remastered and re-issued on CD by the excellent Esoteric label, with their customary attention to detail with the accompanying booklet.