Thursday, April 15, 2004

Alexi Tuomarila & Nicolas Kummert - 14/04/2004, Brussels

Alexi Tuomarila - p
Nicolas Kummert - ts

This was billed as a piano solo concert, but Alexi Tuomarila is a rather shy type, so he called in reinforcements, in the shape of his quartet's saxophonist, Nicolas Kummert. So this became my third piano-saxophone duet in less than a month (fourth if you add the Frahm/Mehldau album). It was their first time giving a duo concert, even though they've been playing together for maybe 5-6 years.

To slip into a prime example of "critical laziness," the concert could be said to be somewhere between a Keith Jarrett/Jan Garbarek and Brad Mehldau/Joel Frahm. Tuomarila is Finnish and brings many folkloric elements into play: wonderful, memorable melodies and dance-like rhythms. One song, who's Finnish name translates as "The Stormwatcher's Daughter," always evokes images of knights, damsels, jousting and perhaps a dragon or two. On Tuomarila's compositions, Kummert has a full, smooth, vibrato-less sound, but on the concert-ending Monk composition "I Mean You," he switched to a more straight-ahead jazz sound, still deprived of vibrato, but less smooth. This is something he often does on jazz standards.

A particular highlight was Tuomarila's playing on Miles Davis's "Solar, " which brought some very nice, subtly contrapuntal elements into play. I hadn't seen him play in around a year and remembered him as a very gifted player, but perhaps a little cold. What surprised me most last night was how he seemed to have pruned the long, abstract lines from his playing, in favour of a more direct, and at times even quite intimate, form of expression. Maybe my memory is wrong, but in any case, I was quite moved.

Alexi Tuomarila Quartet - 02 (Warner)
Alexi Tuomarila Quartet - Voices of Poholja (Igloo)