Matti P

Matti Pajuniemi
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35 reviews/ratings
EERO KOIVISTOINEN - Valtakunta Pop/Art Song/Folk | review permalink
HEIKKI SARMANTO - Syksy Ja Muita Lauluja Pop/Art Song/Folk | review permalink
JUKKA HAAVISTO - Reflections Fusion | review permalink
ESA HELASVUO - Think - Tank - Funk Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
PAT METHENY - Imaginary Day Live World Fusion | review permalink
TORD GUSTAVSEN - Tord Gustavsen Quartet ‎: The Well Post-Fusion Contemporary | review permalink
JUKKA TOLONEN - The Hook Fusion | review permalink
PAUL SIMON - Still Crazy After All These Years Pop/Art Song/Folk | review permalink
JULIE LONDON - Around Midnight Vocal Jazz | review permalink
DIANE SCHUUR - Diane Schuur Featuring Caribbean Jazz Project : Schuur Fire Latin Jazz | review permalink
ELIANE ELIAS - Love Stories Pop/Art Song/Folk | review permalink
BILL CONNORS - Return Fusion | review permalink
MARILYN SCOTT - Nightcap Vocal Jazz | review permalink
PROGRESSION - Noxologic Fusion | review permalink
STRANDBERG PROJECT - X Fusion | review permalink
JONI MITCHELL - Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm Pop/Art Song/Folk | review permalink
UNI SONO - Unisono Fusion | review permalink
KARRIN ALLYSON - Wild for You Vocal Jazz | review permalink
PEKKA POHJOLA - Flight of the Angel Jazz Related Rock | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Pop/Art Song/Folk 8 3.94
2 Vocal Jazz 7 3.43
3 Fusion 6 3.92
4 Post-Fusion Contemporary 4 3.75
5 Jazz Related Rock 3 3.17
6 Latin Jazz 1 4.00
7 Avant-Garde Jazz 1 4.50
8 Bossa Nova 1 3.00
9 Progressive Big Band 1 3.50
10 RnB 1 3.00
11 Third Stream 1 4.00
12 World Fusion 1 4.50

Latest Albums Reviews


Album · 1990 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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To cite All Music Guide, Norwegian SIDSEL ENDRESEN (b. 1952) "is one of those 1990's artists who demonstrate the increasing difficulty in applying traditional 20th-century categorizations to many contemporary music albums". She started her career in music in a short-lived soul group Chiupahua in 1979, after which she sang in Jon Eberson Group from 1980 to 1987. Her solo debut So I Write is the only album I'm familiar with; I found it around 1994 from library, at the time I got interested in jazz and especially the ECM label. The trademark spatial production of Manfred Eicher is indeed unmistakable here. Actually this is one of the most spatial and sonically minimalistic VOCAL albums I've ever listened to, of any genre.

Endresen wrote the lyrics, and the composition credits are shared by various people such as Jon Balke who's not playing on the album. The accompanying musicians are pianist Django Bates -- I remember him from Bill Bruford's Earthworks --, Nils Petter Molvaer on trumpet, flugelhorn and percussion, and percussionist Jon Christensen. Those who know Molvaer may have some idea of the ambient-ish and slightly experimental music.

I was mildly charmed by the album back then, both because of the minimal soundscape and Endresen's personal voice. The All Music Guide refers her voice to Sandy Denny which I don't quite agree with. Endresen's expression has fragility and intimacy but a certain grittiness and introversion, too. It's not a "beautiful" voice, it's like a shy and shabby film character you somehow get deeply curious about.

Despite the strange charm, some tracks I find rather boring, to be honest. For example 'Truth' (7:25) that features just hand percussion and very sparse vocals, and without much of melodies, fails to interest me at all. However the majority of the eight tracks are fascinating with the spatial and introvertly thoughtful/meditative combination of the spoken-oriented voice and sparsely played instruments.

The piece that I'm most impressed by is 'This Is the Movie', not least because of the narrative lyrics about a haphazard meeting of a man and a woman. 'Dreamland' and 'Horses in Rain' are the next best ones, also they have a rare, poetic atmosphere -- and a melodic level, although intendedly a very thin one. Sadly YouTube has very little samples from Sidsel Endresen.

JUHANI AALTONEN Juhani Aaltonen ja Sointi Jazz Orchestra : Saarnaaja

Album · 2019 · Progressive Big Band
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Saxophone & flute player Juhani "Junnu" Aaltonen (b. 1935) is a legendary figure in Finnish jazz. In the late 60's - early 70's he was an original member in Tasavallan Presidentti, Finland's biggest classic prog/jazz-rock act besides Wigwam. Being less of a composer than a sought-out session musician and beloved collaborator, in his long career including also a multitude of albums released under his own name, he has worked closely with composers such as Heikki Sarmanto, Edward Vesala, Henrik Otto Donner and Arild Andersen.

The composer of this particular album is a less known name to a listener, Rasmus Soini. The CD's liner notes tell about the birth of "Saarnaaja" (= The Preacher). In January 2014 Aaltonen visited the music college of Espoo to talk of his ideas and visions of music. Soini, working there as a teacher,was deeply impressed by Junnu's wise words, and a year later he started to compose a conceptual instrumental work for the Sointi Jazz Orchestra he had founded and for Junnu as the soloist.

Like several of Heikki Sarmanto's major works often featuring Aaltonen, this is an orchestral piece of pure Third Stream, ie. music between -- or representing both -- art music and jazz. The large orchestra consists of woodwind and brass, plus piano, double bass and drums. Junnu's role as a soloist on tenor sax and alto flute is naturally very central since he was the muse and inspiration of the whole project. The work is in five parts, some with a poetic title taken from Junnu's lecture, e.g. 'Turning weaknesses into strengths' (Pt. 2), 'I'm gliding above chords' (pt. 4) and 'Music like a prayer' (Pt. 5), freely translated by me.

The overture begins with dramatic low notes from the brass section, quieting down for Junnu's tenor solo and soon returning to do angular, fast-paced dialogue with the sax. The piano and rhythm section join for the last minutes of this very free jazz spirited movement that ends with a chaotic crescendo. Part 2 is a more accessible and melodic movement, balancing between the big orchestral sound and airier group-oriented moments with tenor sax as a soloist.

'Play like the surface of the pond remains unbroken' (Pt. 3) is a gentle movement focusing at first on flute and piano only, later with an increasing backing of brass and woodwinds. I personally would have preferred to keep the movement lighter and more chamber-like all the way.

Pt. 4 continues the wide dynamics of the alteration between solo spots and the brass-heavy sound of the orchestra. On the final movement Junnu plays both flute and tenor sax, and the music sometimes has a sermon-like atmosphere.

I am not a fan of brassy big band sound, so this album doesn't quite meet my taste, but taken more objectively it is a respectable, highly dynamic work filled with Junnu's sensitive playing and orchestral grandiosity.

PAUL SIMON Still Crazy After All These Years

Album · 1975 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
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If anyone, PAUL SIMON is an artist who needs no introduction -- but surprisingly he has no reviews here yet! Billboard chart topper Still Crazy After All These Years was his third solo album after the extremely succesful Simon & Garfunkel partnership (the 1965 debut The Paul Simon Songbook is usually forgotten, partly because most of its songs later became known as S&G songs). Still Crazy also was his most succesful and critically acclaimed solo album until the milestone pop classic Graceland (1986); it won two Grammy Awards, Album Of The Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

My own relationship with Simon's solo output began with compilations rather than individual albums, so I'm not very good remembering the source albums for individual songs of the 70's, but looking at the track lists, this album is the real winner for me, too. It contains four US Top 40 hits, and apart from the rollicking and Gospel-flavoured 'Gone at Last' which I'm not so fond of, all of them would enter my own Best Of Paul Simon list. The title track about a haphazard meeting of an old lover is truly charming. Dreamily laid-back and yet very passionate, with a sophisticated arrangement featuring Michael Brecker's a brilliant saxophone solo.

The biggest hit (No. 1 in the US) was '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover' where the failed affair melancholy is cleverly contrasted with a catchy chorus of amusing rhymes ("Hop on the bus, Gus", "Drop off the key, Lee", etc.). And No. 9 hit 'My Little Town' was a nostalgic re-union of Simon & Garfunkel.

The rest of the album also has great songwriting. 'I Do It for Your Love' is a peaceful ballad in the vein of the title song, admittedly minor in comparison but too forgotten, for it has some really beautiful melodies in it. The hit-filled first side ends with another forgotten little gem, 'Night Game'. Even Toots Thielemans' harmonica solo is frail enough not to ruin the exceptional nocturnal delicacy.

I'm personally fond of the slow and moody 'Some Folks Lives Roll Easy' and its arrangement featuring romantic strings. 'Have a Good Time' was the album's only song I now had no clear memory of. Well, it is pretty mediocre and forgettable, and I'm not great friends with the sharp horns. 'You're Kind' is a small and ironic song about a brief affair, and my second least fave. The last song 'Silent Eyes' has Gospel-oriented passion almost comparable to 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. Leon Pendarvis on piano is excellent, and so is Paul Simon himself on vocals backed by a Gospel choir. A bit cheesy perhaps, but beautiful.

This finely produced album is a definitive classic and a must in Paul Simon's impressive body of work, counting also Simon & Garfunkel.

SPYRO GYRA A Night Before Christmas

Album · 2008 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
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[Like the majority of my JMA reviews, this is the first review for the artist in question.] The American, Buffalo-based fusion band Spyro Gyra has released albums at steady pace since 1974. I have only listened to three of them before this Christmas album. I have never fully been caught by their melodic and funkish fusion, which is probably mostly because of too little listening. Their music is fairly easy on the ears. I am not a big fan of Christmas albums in general, but I haven't heard too many from the jazz genre. And this actually sounds pretty nice, maybe even nicer than the Spyro albums I'm faintly familiar with.

Spyro Gyra usually performs their own compositions written by e.g. saxophonist Jay Beckenstein, guitarist Julio Fernandez or pianist Tom Schuman, but on their sole Christmas album there's only one original amongst more or less well known standards, four of them traditionals. The German folk song 'O Tannenbaum' starts the 11-piece set. I like the rhythm pattern over which the saxophone plays the melody. The piano has more improvisatory role, and the middle has a very cool solo. Six minutes pass by smoothly.

The few vocal guest appearances increase the album's appeal. Christine Ebersole -- never heard -- guests on 'It Won't Feel Like Christmas', a nice little holiday love song by Beckenstein and Terry Cox. 'Winter Wonderland' plays safe as a familiar lighthearted Christmas tune, and without the vibes guesting, it would feel a bit dull.

I think 'Christmas Time Is Here' originates from "Peanuts" animated special; Spyro Gyra made a nice instrumental jazz version of it. Frank Loesser's standard 'Baby It's Cold Outside' is a groovy duet between the drummer Bonny B and Janis Siegel of Manhattan Transfer fame. The beautiful traditional tune 'Carol of the Bells' has never become much heard in my country Finland, and here it's delightfully combined with the lovely 'Greensleeves', so this is among my album highlights.

Spyro Gyra's easy-going sax-led version of 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' is not among my faves of this often covered song. 'The First Noel' belongs to those worn-out Christmas songs I really don't wish to hear repeatedly, but again the improvisatory moments do it good. 'Silent Night' is among my favourite Christmas songs, and I appreciate this arrangement doesn't entirely lose the sacred delicacy.

'This Christmas' from soul singer Donny Hathaway's pen wasn't familiar to me, so it comes as a nice "new tune" among standards. The album ends with Mel Tormé's well known 'The Christmas Song' in which Bonny B gives a personal vocal performance. All in all this album is well worth recommending if you're looking for jazzed-up Christmas music.


Album · 1972 · Jazz Related Rock
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For listeners of the classic symphonic prog of the 70's, Dutch guitarist JAN AKKERMAN (b. 1946) is well remembered from the country's highest acclaimed prog band FOCUS. Being a founding member, he was the group's other main composer beside the organ & flute playing frontman Thijs Van Leer on each of the classic era albums. Of the two, Akkerman was the more strictly devoted to instrumental music with a strong classical / Old Music influence.

In the latter half of the 70's Akkerman left Focus in order to continue and concentrate on his solo career. During the halcyon days of Focus, Akkerman released Profile (1972) and Tabernakel (1973) that are unsurprisingly ranked among his best solo albums in ProgArchives, whereas especially the 80's output is concidered very uneven. But enough of this background information and onto this album. [Btw, the album info is inadequate here. For example Focus members Pierre van der Linden (dr) and Bert Ruiter (b) are fully involved.]

The first side is filled by 'Fresh Air' (19:50), a progressive suite in seven movements. I like the mysterious early part with softly played electric piano. The suddenly entering electric guitar turns the music into a loud and hectic self-indulgence and endless soloing, as if it was coming straight from prejudical nightmares of an anti-prog person without a better knowledge of the genre. Frankly, I think this goes on far too long, without a clear direction. Around 13:00 it slows down and returns to the mysterious calmness, gradually building up the tension in a majestic way -- until the harsher-sounding guitar and frenzy drumwork take over again. The final parts are like a battle of good and evil. Indeed my reception of this epic is very ambivalent: some moments are glorious but most of it is hollow and hostile showing-off that IMHO doesn't sound enjoyable at all.

The second side consists of short tracks. 'Kemp's Jig' is a Medieval/Renaissance lute piece familiar from GRYPHON's debut album. 'Etude' written by Matteo Carcassi is a brief classical guitar piece, not among the finest I've heard. On his own 'Blue Boy' Akkerman & co. rock out joyously with a funky groove.

'Andante Sostenuto' is a beautifully serene, romantic classical guitar piece composed by Austrian Anton Diabelli (1781-1858). Listeners of the likes of Steve Hackett, Anthony Phillips or John Williams will be pleased. 'Maybe Just a Dream', Akkerman's tenderly melodic composition for a band, would have been a fine Focus number too, and so would his acoustic solo piece 'Minster/Farmer's Dance', although classic Focus albums include better pieces in this style.

The album ends with a simple and merry blues rock piece 'Stick' of which I'm not thrilled at all. Is this album a classic? Probably so. Definitely it's a work of an extraordinarily gifted musician, but terribly patchy, and far from the excellence of Focus in their prime. My rating is a modest 3 stars.

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