Markku Ounaskari – Kuára

(This review was originally published in Jazz Journal in 2011.)

Per Jørgensen (trumpet, voice)
Samuli Mikkonen (piano)
Markku Ounaskari (drums)

Polychronion
Psalm CXXI
Tuuin Tuuin
Aallot
Introit
Pitkä Pajo
Introit / Changing Paths (1)
The Gipsy’s Stone
Pikkumetsä
Soldat Keljangúr
Mountain Of Sorrow
Introit / Changing Paths (1)
Sjuan Mad’
Sjuan Gúr
(52.48)

ECM 273 3217 Oslo, May 2009

The sound of a jazz trio interpreting Finno-Ugric folk songs and Russian Orthodox psalms is – it turns out – rather sublime: uplifting piano melodies on Psalm CXXI, muted trumpet sobbing on Tuuin Tuuin, and the evocation by piano and drums of the sound of flowing water on Aallot (trans. ‘waves’) all make for a gentle, mood-filled album with a strong thread of identity. Most European folk musics have a common theme of proud sorrow or mournfulness; a smiling through hard times while also embracing the hardship itself. A different sort of blues that is evident throughout.

Ounaskari and Mikkonen have played together as an improvising duo since 2004 so the close interplay and invention is no surprise. It is, however, Jørgensen’s subtle and sparing trumpet that provides the secret ingredient here. The tone and phrasing are very Milesian at times and particular resonate with the Davis album that this most resembles in concept. Except that Ounaskari & Co have applied their jazz filter to a different, more Scandinavian folk culture and tradition. Sketches in Finno-Ugria perhaps?

“Kuára” is available from ECM and Amazon: