Mikko Innanen with William Parker & Andrew Cyrille – Song for a New Decade [TrackList follows] – TUM 042-2, (2 CDs) 50:34, 55:08 [2/26/15] ****:
(Mikko Innanen – alto and baritone saxophone, Indian clarinet, Uilleann chanter, nose flute, whistles, percussion, producer; William Parker – doublebass (CD 1); Andrew Cyrille – drums)
Here’s a free jazz meeting well worth discovering. Fans of doublebassist William Parker and/or drummer Andrew Cyrille will enjoy Song for a New Decade, a two-hour celebration of spontaneous improvisation headed by Finnish saxophonist Mikko Innanen (who also contributes Indian clarinet, Uilleann chanter, nose flute, whistles, and percussion). CD one (a trio outing recorded in a Brooklyn studio in January, 2010) consists of seven Innanen originals, plus one group composition. CD two is a live duo performance by Innanen and Cyrille, taped June 2, 2012 at the Ibeam Music Studio. Free jazz enthusiasts should already recognize Parker and Cyrille. Parker has been active since the early 1970s and has collaborated with pianist Cecil Taylor, saxophonist David S. Ware and Peter Brötzmann, and has had a steady stream of his own albums since 1981. Cyrille’s career took off in the early ‘60s; he’s toured and/or recorded with Taylor, David Murray, Carla Bley and Reggie Workman; and is currently a member of Trio 3, with Oliver Lake and Workman. Innanen is the least known of the three, but is well regarded in the Nordic jazz scene and has had protracted stays in New York. He has shared stages and studios with numerous musicians, including Wadada Leo Smith, Parker, Kalle Kalima & K-18; and myriad ensembles he’s led. He’s credited on almost 50 albums to date.
The first CD is a 50-minute, eight-piece excursion through quiet and aggressive moods, peaceful and declamatory tones, and emotive and explosive feelings. The opening title track is literally a creation for this latest decade, and as described in a short poem in the CD’s liner notes, is “a sweet song, a sad song, a song with words unheard.” This is forward-thrust jazz, with Innanen’s robust sax initially leading the way, as Parker showcases his poignant arco bass lines, and then switches to plucked, faster-paced notes as the rhythm hastens. Nearly incomprehensible voices can be discerned in the background at one point (probably either Cyrille or Parker), shouting encouragement as the sax squeals and saunters like Ornette Coleman at his most roguish, while the drums burst forth and the bass matches the sax and drums in potency. The second cut, “The End Is a Beginning,” is contemplative and tender, like the lingering memory of a friendship going through geographical disruption. Parker’s somber notes lend an air of melancholy; Parker’s lithe toms have a lissome touch; and Innanen sometimes just lets the space take over, sitting out during some instances, while the bass and drums have the center focus. When Innanen does enter, he’s full of lyrical overtones and beauty. Geography and specific locations influence other numbers.
“Look for the Red Door” (credited to all three artists) refers to a Brooklyn locality, and has the kind of energetic vibe which peppers that New York neighborhood. Undulating percussion, breathy sax, and sardonic bass provide a late-night pulsation, with slower movements and stretched-out measures. The bop-inclined “See You at 103” denotes a Copenhagen bodega (or wine bar). Innanen explains, “I wrote this 13-bar tune there…while sipping a pint of that good old Danish beer.” The piece is dedicated to Innanen’s associate, Danish trumpeter Kaspar Tranberg. Those who prefer their improvisation with a Charlie Parker nod ought to appreciate this. The appropriately bluesy “Blue in Nublu” was partially penned in another venue, New York’s East Village music nightspot, the Nublu Club, and completed as Innanen rode the NYC subway. This is a mid-tempo tune with explorative nuances highlighted by Innanen’s swinging sax, Parker’s complex bass lines and Cyrille’s rich percussive effects (particularly his multifaceted cymbals and brush work). CD One concludes with “Small and Big Steps,” which Innanen states was inspired by the first day of Spring in 2009 while sitting at a café table in Antwerp, Belgium. The basic melody was turned inside out and outside in by the trio, resulting in a wild, chaotic conception, where screeching sax is evenly equaled by Parker’s discordant arco bowing, which miraculously parallels the blustery sax.
The 55-minute CD two—with just Innanen and Cyrille—is uncompromisingly impromptu. The two had no previously composed elements; no preconceived plans; and unmistakably they allow the music to go where it wants. The program is split into six parts for the convenience of CD listeners and any radio jazz programmers brave enough to air this music, but the segments do not pertain to any etched subdivisions. Innanen clarifies about the live material, “As a duo, Andrew and I improvise freely…we can visit any musical place and move to any direction we fancy. To me, that’s true freedom.” That idea can be experienced throughout this extended foray into nonconformity. The first portion, “Song 1” is feverish and displays a bristly impact and a similarly unhindered rhythmic pattern. Cyrille raises and reduces the furor, with sharp percussive shots, and unexpected, cadenced apogees. Innanen edges away from his horns during “Song 2,” instead adding hand percussion to accentuate Cyrille’s Asiatic-tinged percussion. “Song 3” has a relaxed, not quite placid approach. Innanen changes to other, gentler wind instruments. From there, the twosome swells, wanes, rise again, and so on. “Song 5” is notable when Innanen shifts to nose flute and then makes bird-like noises, exploits what seems like a wind-up toy, and otherwise goes against any probability of what might be predictable. Cyrille and Innanen finish in heavier territory on “Song 6.” Cyrille employs brasher tom-toms while Innanen returns to his high-flying sax, and they groove on persistently melodic motifs.
Song for a New Decade is an excellent example of two generations of spur-of-the-moment improvisers who together craft advanced jazz which is, to quote Innanen again, “true freedom.” The production and packaging mirror other fine TUM releases. The foldout digipak has a 27-page insert booklet filled with biographical information; studio notes; a summary of the apt Finnish artwork which is in the booklet and on the cover; Innanen’s poetry; and lots of photos. The engineering and mix are detail-orientated, with microphones set expertly and closely to pick up the subtlest percussive aspects or Innanen’s softest wind instrumentation, such as the nose flute or whistles.
CD 1: Song for a New Decade; The End Is a Beginning; Karl’s Castle; Look for the Red Door; A Morning, a Day, a Night; See You at 103; Blue in Nublu; Small and Big Steps
CD 2: Songs for This Decade [note: split for CD playback into six parts, “Song 1,” “Song 2,” “Song 3,” “Song 4,” “Song 5” and “Song 6”]