Iro Haarla Quintet - Vespers
(ECM 274 3616, CD Review by Chris Parker)
Harpist/pianist/composer Iro Haarla rose to prominence as the arranger/orchestrator for drummer/leader Edward Vesala's Sound & Fury, producing definitive European jazz classics such as Lumi and Ode to the Death of Jazz in the ensemble's pomp, and this recording features bassist Uffe Krokfors from that uniquely influential group. Also on board are three quintessential ECM artists: drummer Jon Christensen, trumpeter Mathias Eick and saxophonist Trygve Seim, and they address Haarla's 'free ballads' with all the slow-burning intensity, considered strength and dignity that her utterly individual music demands.
Stately, thoughtful, often melancholy but undeniably powerful, Vespers is almost exclusively composed of slow, stately, rubato themes with titles such as 'The Shimmer of Falling Stars' and 'The Warm Currents of the Sea', which the various band members play rather as though they have been given a vague map detailing prominent landmarks on the route to a common destination but have been left to choose for themselves the precise path taken between them.
The resultant music is thus 'free' to the extent that it has no regular rhythm, proceeding instead in surges and wafts, like a natural phenomenon, but of course this sort of jazz is ECM's speciality, Haarla is among its most skilful exponents, and her band likewise, so the album has a satisfying organic cohesiveness, and will undoubtedly delight her many admirers.