In Pekka, Finnish trumpeter and composer Verneri Pohjola adopts a number of his late father’s (Pekka Pohjola) tunes from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and transmutes them from an essentially prog-rock format into his own unique jazz style.
Being unfamiliar with the works of the father (and realizing that this may be an attraction to those who loved his work), I had to invest some time acquainting myself with the originals as a comparison.
The lengthy introduction to opening piece The Dragon of Kätkävaara comes together with the introduction of the simple bass line that continues pretty much throughout. When quiet trumpet takes on the melody, the mood is sublime. Halfway through there is a dynamic shift, as per original, but here introduces a section of more freestyle variations from Verneri. This is a faithful reworking of the original prog-rock number that would be unmistakable to those who knew the former.
In contrast, First Morning cuts a lot from the original, reworking around the essential meme of the melody. Features some beautiful Rhodes and guitar solos!
Inke and Me features a lot of freestyling in the first half before finding the melodic phrase which is taken up by guitar initially but then reprised beautifully on double bass.
Pinch is an aggressive piece that takes us through various stages and solos by trumpet, bass and guitar but returning always to the fierce refrain.
Pekka’s Madness Subsides always felt particularly jazzy anyway, with Rhodes chord progressions and guitar solo; Vernari makes this piece his own by diverting to solos on guitar and bass, reprising the Rhodes progression occasionally but eventually developing into electronica.
The underlying bass progression on Benjamin is joined by breathy trumpet, overdubbed and duetting with itself. The original version was largely a piano piece but Vernari has beautifully extended this into another realm, lively and exciting, featuring a lovely Rhodes solo. Of all the pieces, this is the most structured and tight – my favourite!
The dreamlike quality of Innocent Questions is enhanced by the almost exclusive use of Rhodes and trumpet though it did seem a little lengthy at nine minutes.
Supporting Verneri Pohjola (trumpet) are: Tuomo Prattala (Fender Rhodes), Teenu Vinikainen (guitar), Mika Kallio (drums) and Antti Lotjonen (bass).
Verneri’s tonal qualities are excellent and all the musicians work well together, balanced and making room for each other, each demonstrating they can solo well too!
In the album footnotes, Vernari declares a functional opposition to his father’s strict approach to music, instead wanting to respect the “core and soul” of the music but not be afraid to change and make the music his own. This he has done well and empathically. With my own jazz roots stemming from prog-rock crossovers, I found this album very accessible. Taken in its own right, this is an album of excellent quality and most definitely worth a listen. For those approaching from the standpoint of wishing to revisit Pekka’s work, I think you will not be disappointed.
An excellent album and lucky find for me!
Track Listing: Dragon; First Morning; Inke and Me; Pinch; Madness Subsides; Benjamin; Innocent Questions.
Verneri Pohjola: trumpet
Tuomo Prättälä: Fender Rhodes
Teemu Viinikainen: guitar
Mika Kallio: drums
Antti Lötjönen: bass
Record Label: Edition Records