New and noteworthy jazz albums for May

Seven Hills is the new album from Alexi Tuomarila, an artist on the verge of becoming one of the most important young pianists & composers on the European Jazz scene. His trio consists of also Norwegian Mats Eilertsen on bass and Olavi Louhivouri from Oddarrang on drums. The album is released by Edition Records (UK) in June. 

Edition Records is also releasing Mopo’s recent album Jee! in the UK, in May. Their saxophonist Linda Fredriksson was recently awarded with Critics’ Spurs, an annual honorary prize from The Finnish Critics' Association.

Big Blue is releasing their second album Strange Wonder (CAM Jazz) in May. Jorma Kalevi Louhivuori (sax), Antti Kujanpää (piano), Jori Huhtala (bass) and Joonas Leppänen (drums) celebrated the new release in concert at the April Jazz Festival in Finland.

The vigorously active free-jazzists Black Motor are releasing their ninth album. Sami Sippola (saxophones), Ville Rauhala (double-bass, electric bass) and Simo Laihonen (drums, percussion, flutes) will showcase a new approach with meditative ballad album Yöstä aamun kynnykselle (Lumpeela Julkaisut), to be released in May.

Manuel Dunkel United & Proton String Quartet has released an album called Meeting Point (Texicalli). As the title suggests, a traditional combo of jazz quartet, Manuel Dunkel (sax), Seppo Kantonen (piano), Ville Herrala (bass) and Mika Kallio (drums), meets a string quartet in order to play some timeless jazz composed and arranged by Manuel Dunkel.

The energetic new album This Time (Prophone) from the jazz drummer Jussi Lehtonen is modern jazz that honors tradition. On the album he is joined by a group of renowned musicians, Dutch guitarist Jesse van Ruller, saxophonist Joonatan Rautio and jazz organist Mikko Helevä. Lehtonen is responsible for most of the compositions on the album, but there is also an original piece by van Ruller, as well as some jazz standards. 

Iiro Rantala has released a new album Jazz at the Berlin Philharmonic I, together with Michael Wollny and Leszek Mozdzer. The pianists got together at the Kammermusiksaal of Berlin Philharmonic, playing mainly their own material. The concert was recorded live on December 2012, and was released on ACT Music.

Kokko Quartet had a splendid performance at jazzahead! in April, with a vast crowd of listeners present. Their debut album Like a River was released in March. Established in 2010 and led by pianist Johanna Pitkänen, the group with Kaisa Siirala (saxophone), Timo Tuppurainen (bass) and Risto Takala (drums), plays recognizably Scandinavian jazz but draws influences from Indian and Arabic music as well as Cuban rhythms, thus creating a distinctive overall sound.

Time Continuum (SatnaMusic) is the debut album of the Finnish-Italian jazz quintet Infinita, including Sid Hille (piano), Tero Saarti (trumpet), Massimo Carboni (saxophone), Paolo Spanu (bass) and Gianni Filideu (drums). The album consists of compositions by Sid Hille and several collective free improvisations that serve as introductions or interludes.

Ricky-Tick Big Band & Julkinen Sana releases its debut album Burnaa (Sony Music) in May. Ricky-Tick Big Band is the all-star cast of young Finnish jazz men led by composer and guitarist Valtteri Pöyhönen, also known also as the primus motor of Dalindèo. The big band’s line-up includes such hard-hitters as Jukka Eskola and Kalevi Louhivuori (trumpet), Antti Hynninen and Pope Puolitaival (sax), Jaska Lukkarinen (drums) and Antti Lötjönen (bass), to name but a few. Now they have started a spectacular collaboration with top Finnish rappers Tommy Lindgren, Redrama and Paleface combining traditional big band jazz with modern rap molding it anew into contemporary jazz with firm roots.

Aili Ikonen & Tribute to Ella (Fredriksson Music) pays homage to one of the greatest vocal stylists and improvisers of all times, Ella Fitzgerald, and to the music she loved. Bassist and bandleader Mikko Pellinen´s fresh arrangements, played by some of the top young Finnish jazz musicians, including Aili Ikonen (vocals), Janne Toivonen (trumpet), William Suvanne (saxophone, flute), Tuomas J. Turunen (piano) and Mikko Arlin (drums), gives the evergreen tunes an exciting twist.