NADA - Finnish JAZZ - "You just found another killer EER review!"            


Nada, Plays Compositions by Eero Hämeenniemi (CD, 49:22); Alba ABCD 134
Alba Records
P.O. Box 549
Tampere, Finland
Phone: +358-3-345 1387

        Scandinavia is home to many fine jazz musicians, with a particularly 
thriving scene centered in Denmark. Nada hails from Finland, and this 
CD features the avant-garde ensemble playing music written by their 
pianist, Eero Hämeenniemi. It's a very eclectic and charming disc.
	The first cut, "Blues," starts off with unaccompanied piano 
and sounds a bit like the standard "You Stepped Out of a Dream." When 
bassist Sampo Lassila enters, we discover that the tune is a slow 6/8 
blues - but with an ingenious form involving three-bar phrases 
superimposed on the twelve-bar cycle. Markus Ketola's drums come in 
after about four minutes, and then Pentti Lahti begins his alto sax 
solo, sounding a bit like Arthur Blythe. The track then undergoes an 
unexpected transformation, into a two-chord klezmer-style vamp which 
builds all the way until the dramatic, tightly arranged ending.
	"Music for Mani IV" and "Music for Mani II" follow. The first 
begins with breathy, atmospheric sounds and masterful harmonics from 
Heikki Nikula's bass clarinet. After a couple of minutes, a jaunty 
and ear-catching melody suddenly breaks in, with very nice 
counterpoint between bass clarinet and sax. Again, I hear a hint of 
klezmer as well as the kind of off-kilter phrase construction 
featured in "Blues." Nikula and Ketola solo adeptly, and Lahti's sax 
sounds remarkably like a violin when it reenters to state the final 
melody. The second of this series reveals the group's strong 
classical influence-a pretty, minor-key ballad, featuring plaintive, 
high-register alto sax and a fine piano solo.
	The liner note description for the next tune, "Alter," is 
worth quoting in full: "The age of great personalities is over, or so 
one often hears. If you cannot have a major personality, why not have 
a whole bunch of minor ones? This piece, however, only has two." 
Clearly, Nada is a likeable band with a great sense of humor. "Alter" 
is an uptempo swing number with a free improv duo between bass and 
bass clarinet in the middle and some exceptional drumming by Ketola 
toward the end.
	"Takita Taka Takita Takita Taka" is the tongue-twisting 
finale. Structurally the piece is similar to "Music for Mani IV": a 
long, abstract intro and a sudden shift into a complex, driving, 
klezmerish, minor-key melodic theme. The track settles into a strong, 
harmonics-heavy bass clarinet solo over an ostinato bass figure, then 
an arco bass solo, and finally a terrific drum solo. This 
13-minute-long cut makes clear the ensemble's strong allegiance to 
the European avant-garde rather than straightahead jazz. Yet 
structure and melody are not abandoned. The band succeeds at 
reconciling its various influences, with enjoyable results.
~David R. Adler

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