Aki Takase is making a real burden for herself with this the latest in her hopefully ongoing series of Intakt releases. With every successive one it's not just a simple matter of the quality going up but rather a matter of different facets of her ability being revealed. As these releases have all been documents of duos, the effect is almost rhetorical, as if she's intent on making a case for that sparse setting and what can be achieved in it.
Aki Rissanen delivers an all-encompassing, powerful new album with Another North, an album that explores new heights of rhythmic intensity, pulsating grooves and hypnotic loops. Aki Rissanen has reset his compass. This is their Another North.
On first hearing, the piano music of Peter Garland (b. 1952) creates a feeling of dislocation, then astonishment: It is so very different from the contemporary concert music we are familiar with. The composer's intent, his emotional directness is immediate - despite the unusual sound world and different sense of time that these pieces exhibit. Time itself appears to be suspended, and rhythm, melody and harmony are transformed into quite different entities in a universe parallel to our own - as accessible but not quite of it.
Finland's Verneri Pohjola got five stars in these pages last year for his sumptuously colourful big-band album Aurora. Ancient History is for the trumpeter's quartet with the daring pianist Aki Rissanen, and though it isn't as atmospheric, it has a comparable thematic strength and plenty of compelling improvising. The only cover is of Björk's lyrical Hyperballad, which Pohjola explores in half-valve slurs and sighs (he has affinities with Norway's Arve Henriksen and America's Ambrose Akinmusire) mingled with hints of postbop phrasing against a scramble of free percussion.
Known for drawing unusual sonorities from conventional instruments, Xenakis strangely left the piano's potential for novel sounds unexplored. In these works, Xenakis stays on the keyboard without so much as a plucked string or any use of gadgetry to alter the instrument's sound. Although that might make these pieces appear less radical, even "safe," Xenakis exploits every other option available.
Over the last few years Aki has quietly been building a name in the international jazz world both as a leader and as a sideman. With Amorandom, he delivers his most authoritative work to date. There’s a fluidity in his playing and a boldness in his composing that deserves widespread praise and real recognition for one of the finest young European pianists. Described by Downbeat as a ‘rising star around Europe, Amorandom is the work that will introduce Aki Rissanen’s startling new talent to a global audience.