Vesala’s Musical Homage to Helsinki

Helsinki Soundpost
Martti Vesala Soundpost Quintet
(Ozella Music)

Helsinki Soundpost is an aural pleasure from start to finish. Eight tracks, 50 minutes of majestic music. From the first insistent single note repetition of “Smoke” right through to the epic grandeur of album closer “Yamal” it engages totally.

In ways there are no surprises, no challenges to throw you. Sometimes that can be a negative. Not here. It’s like you have always known this music. Part classic East Coast American, part Scandinavian self-restraint. It insinuates itself into your mental soundscape. Half a century from now Helsinki Soundpost will sound as fresh to a new generation of jazz lovers as Birth of the Cool sounds to us now.

A strong narrative element runs through this work. There is ‘Lumi’ with its serene classical piano opening and joyous flute expressing the hushed contentment of tramping through snow-covered city streets. The Spring re-awakening of ‘Smoke’ comes across in the gentle pastoral interplay of trumpet, sax and piano with a driving rhythm propelling the whole thing along. ‘Carvings’ suggests the slow methodical approach of the master craftsman with its unhurried piano/flute opening, the trumpet easing its way in, everything given space. No showboating.

Headfirst is one of a number of straight-ahead traditional swing tunes on which Helsinki Soundpost is built. While the style may be familiar the sound is as fresh as the Arctic winds that sweep down from the north. The standout feature of the tune is Ville Pynssi’s sensational percussive wizardry. Wannabe drummers, listen and weep!

As I listened to Kivivuori’s double-bass solo in ‘Soundpost’, the evening birdsong coming in through the open window provided the perfect backdrop. It’s that kind of album.

There is an effortless sweep to this music, a seeming casualness to its execution which, if anything, sucks you into an almost voyeuristic sense of observing, up close, the virtuosity of the playing. There is a sense of continuity throughout, one track occasionally taking on from where that preceding leaves off. Yet each one is utterly unique.

Helsinki Soundpost is a wonderful musical homage to Helsinki and, by extension, to Finland. If Finland is really as beautiful as Martti Vesala would have us believe, expect tourist numbers to go through the roof!

Martti Vesala trumpet & fluegelhorn
Petri Puolitaival tenor saxophone, flute & alto flute
Joonas Haavisto piano & rhodes
Juho Kivivuori double bass
Ville Pynssi drums & percussion

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