J. Kukkonen – Open Case – SibaRecords multichannel surround SACD-1002, 57:17 (Distr. by Naxos) ****:
(Jarno Kukkonen – guitar; George Kontrafouris – Hammond organ; Jaska Lukkarinen – drums)
If there is any doubt that jazz is a global concept, look no further than Helsinki. A fusion trio featuring guitarist/composer Jarno Kukkonen is channeling the underappreciated, American fusion movement of the late sixties and early seventies. Performing jazz and blues since the age of fifteen, the Finnish band leader (who also records under the name Cuccone) embraces the eruptive, creative aspects of this genre. A member of the innovative Sibelius Academy music school, he is part of the emerging SibaRecords label (known for its catalogue of jazz and classical music).
With a traditional jazz trio format (guitar, organ drums), Open Case displays a raw, tightly constructed amalgam of jazz, blues and rock. Featuring nine original compositions (by Kukkonen), the group plays off each other with cohesive spontaneity. The opening track, “On The Radar” utilizes a muscular, power trio ambiance (not unlike Stevie Ray Vaughn). Kukkonen rips off several hard-edged guitar runs, with modulation and commitment. Meeting his fury is the relentless Hammond play of George Kontrafouris. With a varied style, the talented organist is explosive, like Keith Emerson. The group has a distinct hard edge in pieces like “Panopticon”. Spurred by distorted guitar vamps and percolating organ runs, the jam is full of rock pretense. “Prelude” approximates the essence of fusion with ferocious drumming (Jaska Lukkarinen), descending introduction and Kukkonen’s screeching riffs.
Adding a bluesy swing, “Enough Turmoil” emphasizes group dynamics as Lukkarinen executes a crisp solo. Equally adept, Kontrafouris elicits soulful Hammond solos against a more textured guitar. The distorted organ sound gives an exotic vibe to “Closed Case”. This arrangement has a repetitive pulse that builds with intensity. A change of pace can be found on “Decadence”. Adopting a latin cadence, the melody is more lyrical and atmospheric. “Broken Mirror” also has a slower tempo and gives Kukkonen an opportunity to stretch out with a more traditional interpretation. The trio seems most adept on songs that showcase a rough approach like “Hot Shot” and “Lonely Child”. The cuts maintain a terse auditory quality, with tempo breaks and biting accents.
SACD engineering adds significant texture to the simple trio instrumentation. The fuzzy distortion and fluidity of the guitar are preserved in detail. The Hammond organ is especially colorful and diverse in its range of tones.
TrackList: On The Radar; Enough Turmoil; Closed Case; Broken Mirror; Prelude; Panopticon; Decadence; Hot Shot; Lonely Child
The counterculture movie from the 60x