Antti Lötjönen Quintet East / Aleksi Heinola Quintet / Oaagaada ‘Lonna 2019’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 3/5

Written by on August 23, 2020

Here we have the third in a series of live albums from Helsinki based label We Jazz. Each release showcases three of the label’s artists, this one with live performances captured at the island of Lonna, just outside Helsinki in July 2019.

As is becoming apparent with these releases, the label isn’t afraid to mix things up to keep the feel fresh and vibrant. Featured on this recording are performances by Aleksi Heinola Quintet, Antti Lötjönen Quintet East and Oaagaada.

Each act brings with them their own style and vibe and generally speaking there’s some interesting and engaging music to be enjoyed here. Drummer Heinola’s quintet and the Hämeenlinna-based quartet Oaagaada make their We Jazz Records debut here, while Lötjönen adds to this year’s debut release as leader for the label.

Aleksi Heinola Quintet swings freely with their natural ability of making no-nonsense hard bop sound fresh in a contemporary setting. The quintet’s music wouldn’t be out of place on a long-lost Blue Note album, with its sax and trumpet front-line working very well together and producing some nice solos. The vibe is cool, the mood relaxed, and the atmosphere engaging. Antti Lötjönen leads his star-studded Quintet East through a spirited rendition of Don Cherry’s “Art Deco”. In keeping with Cherry’s music, the band give a compelling performance, taking the ebb and flow of this piece in their stride. Oaagaada sit centrally in the ‘spiritual jazz’ camp. Whilst their first tune works effortlessly around a drone-like meditative sound, gradually building on a single theme, their second tune is much freer in nature, with some daring blowing from the horns bordering on the avant-garde.

“Lonna 2019” is my favourite release in this series so far. It’s an engaging mix of good old-fashioned no-nonsense jazz, with a liberally sprinkled dose of spiritual improv.

Mike Gates

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