CD REVIEW: Timo Lassy – Love Bullet

Timo Lassy – Love Bullet
(Must Have Jazz 234019. CD review by Andrew Cartmel)

Finnish tenor player Timo Lassy started his career in Amsterdam and returned to his homeland to do some notable work with the Five Corners Quintet and then with Fiver Corners alumnus Jukka Eskola (Review) , who guests on trumpet here. In a part of the world where electronic music tends to dominate, Lassy has remained faithful to acoustic playing, and performs adroit, world class hard bop and soul jazz.

Having recently supported singer Joyce Elaine Yuille on her debut album (reviewed here), Lassy is now back as a leader on this CD, his fifth album, with virtually the same line-up as featured accompanying Yuille: the gifted Georgios Kontrafouris on keyboards, Antti Lötjönen on bass and Abdissa Assefa percussion. They’re a great unit and freed of the discipline of comping, they really soar here.

The title Green Pepper Strut suggests Memphis Rn'B of the Booker T variety, and initially delivers this in spades, a funky, honking, hand-clapping treat with Timo Lassy probing forward and Kontrafouris adding characteristically virtuosic slabs of Wurlitzer. But it rapidly moves into a more polished CTI mode and then onto increasingly complex and modernistic pastures, with Kontrafouris ably conducting the tour and displaying all kinds of ability on the keyboard as he adapts along the way. It’s virtually a compact fifty year survey of popular jazz idioms, returning to its rhythm and blues roots as it wraps up.

Love Bullet presents wonderful soft cloud-of-sound sax from Lassy, alternately gorgeously gruff and beguilingly gossamer, supported by judicious vibes, lazy, lambent and concise, from Panu Savolainen. Subtle keyboard stabs courtesy of Kontrafouris help to set the pace. Hip or Not has a strong soul jazz feel with a hint of modernist astringency. There are superb chiming and shimmering keyboard passages with smart use of space, and lucid virile trumpet from Jukka Eskola. He hands over to Lassy, who raises his game in the afterglow of Eskola’s solo, playing spiky and eloquent tenor. The drumming — from Teppo Mäkynen — and Abdissa Assefa’s percussion are outstanding, contributing a Latin feel.

Undecided is a feature for Jukka Eskola and is initially suggestive of Freddie Hubbard in his prime, but soon Eskola, and indeed the whole ensemble, are evoking electric era Miles Davis in a sweetly thunderous, roiling and rolling workout. Bullet Outro is hypnotically rhythmic, weaving a pattern of percussion (great work by Assefa, in cahoots with Teppo Mäkynen), supported by Kontrafouris’s trademark keyboard stabs, before Lassy comes in to offer a tender commentary.

The Hamburg based label Must Have Jazz (a division of Membran) is a new name — and one they’ve really lived up to with this splendid, noteworthy and deeply enjoyable album.

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