Mikko Innanen and Innkvisitio – Clustrophy (2011)

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photo: Risto Kantola

I know of at least two things people from Finland excel in: cell phones and forward-thinking jazz. The mostly-Finnish Scorch Trio springs to mind when it comes to jazz with an edge, and for the last ten years or so, multi-saxophonist Mikko Innanen belongs squarely in that conversation, too. Innanen is a musician who is heavily influenced by Ornette Coleman in that he thinks of harmony and melody in a similar way, which is to mean it’s isn’t necessarily abrasive or atonal, but quite anarchistic at times. However, Innanen isn’t beholden to Coleman’s principles so much that he’s unafraid to dive into uncharted waters.

Innanen first made his mark with the pianoless Triot combo, but lately has led a bassless ensemble instead, named Innkvisitio. Last year the then all-Finn threesome put out Paa-Da-Pap, and now has quickly followed up with Clustrophy (I love that name and I don’t know why). For this second Innkvisitio release, saxophonist/clarinetists Frederik Ljungkvist and Daniel Erdmann from Sweden and Germany, respectively, were added to the original trio that also includes Seppo Kantonen (synthesizers) and Joonas Riippa (drums, percussion, pocket trumpet). Adding two more reedmen mixes things up, which is what I’m sure Innanen intended. The three man sax line adds harmonic heft, blues and swing to the icy modern and retro-avant hybrid. Innanen, in fact, coins it “retro-futuristic,” which is a pretty accurate way of describing this music.

Every track is idiosyncratic, sharply different from every other track, but the title track “Clustrophy” seems to best define where this band is coming from. On top of a hard swinging beat, a pseudo jazz organ and a walking synth pulse functioning as a bass, Innanen, Ljungkvist and Erdmann blast notes together around a loose, semi-dissonant melody. Each of the sax players get turns to solo, but it’s Innanen’s baritone that flies in the widest orbit. Kantonen follows picking out notes on a very spacey, Sun Ra kind of electric keyboard. It’s little creepy, a little throwback and more than a little slick.

Sun Ra’s inspiration can also be found on the sci-fi B-movie soundtrack sound of “Earth’s Second Moon.” Barren Kraut rock permeates on cuts like “Vraa-Tender” and “Detto The Magician.” Minimalist, AACM-styled music can be found on “A Panoramic View From The Top Floor” and “Ardennes At Dawn,” while Chicago’s wilder side of jazz is projected on “The Grey Adler Strikes Again.” And just when you think they’ve pulled every device out of their track bag, out comes an off-kilter, Medeski Martin and Wood brand of acid-jazz, “757.”

It’s hard to stand out and truly be noticed and remembered when you’re trying to test the boundaries of jazz, because it’s seems it’s all been done before. But Clustrophy really is different. In a good way, too. Mikko Innanen seeks to innovate on every song, and that’s what makes this album a special one.

Clustrophy is coming out on October 25 by TUM Records. Visit Mikko Innanen’s website.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at [email protected] .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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