Tag Archives: Olavi Louhivuori

Album review: Oddarrang: In Cinema (released Oct 2013)

Oddarrang_In Cinema

It never occurred to me that Oddarrang might not be a Finnish word! It turns out it stands for Odd Arrangement, or so band leader Olavi Louhivuori told me.   I was captivated by Cathedral last May and dazzled by Oddarrang’s performance at London Jazz Festival last year so I came to this album with a great deal of baggage, with high expectations. We have a similar line up (the ‘odd arrangement’) of stringed instruments, trombone, electronics and Olavi on drums, like a sprite conjuring magic in this strange landscape.  Perhaps in keeping with the more sombre environment in which we now find ourselves, this album doesn’t have much of the fairy tale to it on first listening.   Seeing the band at Kings Place in September, where the walls shook with the volume of The Sage and my blood ran cold with fear at one point, the unearthly vocals of Osmo Ikonen rising above the cacophony, it would be reasonable to think this was a very different band, that they have left haunting, spiritual, glacial delicacy behind.

And then suddenly Olavi sat at the piano for just a few bars, a xylophone tinkles and I am sitting in a sleigh on a midnight ride through a snowy moonlit forest, back in that mythical landscape.  How cleverly they play on our emotions.  The album is the score for four films. I have not seen them yet.   In my mind they are all achingly sad or full of terror.  It is always cold, the wind howls. On the ethereal Missing Tapes from a Highway Set the delicate guitar sounds Japanese, a lament from Turandot, there is a sad feel to this track, the trombone’s lovely melody speaks of loss.   Other tracks are anxiety laden, full of foreboding, there are shrieks, the trombone yowls in pain, it is quite nightmarish.

This album grows and glows, it is not glacial at all but fiery.  It is striking in its breadth of emotion and the beautiful physical landscapes it evokes, where subtlety and sheer explosive power are perfectly balanced (as in Self-portrait). And when tranquility morphs into a stadium-filling wall of sound, you feel a sense of shock and loss when it ends.  Masterly.

Oddarrang:   In Cinema

All music composed by Olavi Louhivuori except track 7 by Lasse Lindgren

Olavi Louhivuori, drums, piano, synths, harmonium
Ilmari Pohjola, trombone, guitar
Osmo Ikonen, cello, vocals
Lasse Sakara, guitar
Lasse Lindgren, bass, synths

Oddarrang is available from http://store.editionrecords.com/album/in-cinema

Mary James

CD review: Alexi Tuomarila Trio – Seven Hills – released June 2013

There was a very strong likelihood that the Finnish pianist Alexi Tuomarila could have become a professional tennis player had he not discovered Miles Davis and gone on to study in Brussels where he won many prizes. Those tennis essentials – gracefulness, nimble footwork, sensitivity to the moment and delicacy of touch – are abundantly apparent here in Alexi’s sparkling touch.  I imagine a Roger Federer performance, no pressure visible, feet (or fingers) skimming the ground, elegant changes of direction like a swallow in flight. When Alexi’s career hit a dark patch, titles such as Bone Yard Jive and My Dark Hours hint at the desolation within but now, on Edition Records, he returns to dazzling sunlight with this beautiful album. His playing is breathtaking, it is cool and Scandinavian yet warm and intimate,  a density of notes yet never heavy.  I keep wanting to use the adjective sparkling but that’s what this album is, every track dazzles you with wonder.

He is joined by Mats Eilertsen on bass (Tord Gustavsen Trio and Mats’ own bands, most recently on the exquisite Sails Set) and Olavi Louhivuori on drums (leader of Oddarrang amongst other excellent projects), and on a couple of tracks by Portuguese guitar player André Fernandes. Alexi’s trio have played together before, on his Constellation (2006), well-titled, a pitch for the heavens that he has now reached in Seven Hills.

There are very strong melodies, some hymn-like (Miss), others have a Monk-tinge (Visitor Q), all demonstrate perfect understanding between this trio. The guitar seems to be used (on Prologue and Ceremony) to set up tension,the drums contorted like thunder, but always the piano brings us back to serenity. On Jibeinia, we have the delicate tracery of an extinct fossil bird, a feathered dinosaur set out in Mats’ bass, the piano wistfully trilling a possible call for this long-gone creature.

All the tracks are standout. but I must draw attention to Cyan by Olavi where the trio is at its most etheral. It could be a lullaby for a sleepy child or the remembrance of a perfect summer day, the drums are like rustling silk.

I saw Alexi with this trio earlier in the year at Warwick Arts Centre. We can only hope Alexi tours the UK soon, more people need to experience his sublimely contemplative intensity for themselves. Game, Set and Match to Mr Tuomarila.

Alexi Tuomarila
Alexi Tuomarila, piano
Mats Eilertsen, double bass
Olavi Louhivuori, drums
André Fernandes, guitar



Seven Hill is available from Edition Records and other places

Review: Claudio Filippini Trio – Facing North – released Jan 2013

From the moment you handle the CD case and carefully extract the liner notes, you know you are in for a very classy, modish experience with this trio comprised of Italian pianist Claudio Filippini, Swedish bass player Palle Danielsson and Finnish drummer Olavi Louhivouri. The glossy paper of the notes, the delightful stickers of album covers (far too beautiful to actually stick on anything), the mix of near-sepia and delicate colour photographs and, most satisfying of all, exquisite essays by Claudio and Daniela Floris.

All these features whet our appetite even before we listen. We read how Claudio couldn’t believe he had been asked to play with two idols he had never met. How he was passing through a troubled period as a composer, how suddenly the very thought of working with Palle and Olavi strengthened and focussed him, like a compass pointing to the only true direction where you can align yourself – North – Facing North. Immediately we empathise with Claudio’s dilemma and anguish, and rejoice in its joyful resolution. And we are grateful for Daniela’s quiet shyness at being in their presence while recording, when she was dazzled by beauty, yet able to describe a wonderful experience to us.

Then you listen, holding your breath, hoping your expectations will be fulfilled. And they are, immeasurably. The overwhelming impression this album leaves you with is joy. From the happy, smiling, cover photo to the final chord, this album is suffused with love, hope and a sense that strength, once received, never leaves you. There are six beautiful compositions by Claudio, a Henry Mancini, two Gershwins, the best Brian Wilson song ever (God Only Knows) and Adele’s song Chasing Pavements. The piano is a beautifully toned Steinway from the 1920s, the studio sound is warm and calm.

Maybe it is not co-incidental that the opening track is Nothing to Lose with its subtle, cautious start, then growing confidence. The heart-breaking bass leaves you in no doubt that this is a very special session, this track was recorded in one take. The title track Facing North sings and swings, suffused with Bill Evans-like gentle harmonies, as if Palle brought something of the master with him from 1965 Stockholm and Claudio has picked it up, so subtly. Everything is subtle and ethereal on this album, as if you can’t quite believe it is happening. They recorded it in low lighting and that must have added to the atmosphere. Landscape opens with a shimmering terrain, gently rolling hills traced by the piano while the bass glides and soars serenely above it like a bird. This is a luxurious verdant landscape, nothing jarring here. The subtle use of the celesta adds a magical icy touch to several tracks like Sonatina and Soaking and Floating.

What can you say about God only knows? The most perfect pop song ever written and here given a brittleness and fragility with ironic opening chords. Adele’s ambiguous Chasing Pavements is accorded great reverence, it is a lovely tune, rendered timeless here. Upbeat Modern Times closes the album sending us away feeling strong, optimistic, refreshed.

Claudio has indeed proved that he had nothing to lose and everything to gain in this perfect album. Highly recommended. I must thank Ermanno Basso for making it happen.

Claudio Filippini

Claudio Filippini, piano, celesta

Palle Danielsson, double bass

Olavi Louhivuori, drums



Facing North is available on Cam Jazz and other places

Review: Alexi Tuomarila Trio, Warwick Arts Centre, 27 January 2013

It’s not every day that you get taken by surprise by a piano trio but that’s what happened to me last night at Warwick Arts Centre. The Alexi Tuomarila Trio are due to release their new album on Edition Records in April so it was a great thrill and a coup for Jazz Coventry to host them so early in the year. Alexi’s trio consists of Mats Eilertsen on bass and Olavi Louhivuori on drums and himself on piano. As a trio comprised of a Norwegian and two Finns, they speak to each other in English but there the compromise ends. Each of them is a star in their own firmament. From a very early age, Alexi won prizes and over the years has played with Tomasz Stanko ( I believe I saw him at WAC with Tomasz Stanko in 2009). Mats leads his own projects (notably with Thomas Strønen and Harmen Fraanje, in addition to playing with Tord Gustavsen). Olavi leads Oddarrang (you will know about my enthusiasm for this project) and he also plays with Tomasz Stanko. There isn’t space to list all their achievements here but the sum total of all their experience means when you see all three on stage together you have an almost limitless depth.

So what was so great last night? Well, what most struck me was that I was listening to very dense sound, on the piano and the bass, but it didn’t feel heavy or overwhelming. It may have been Alexi’s exquisite sparkling touch on the piano, he could play a lot of notes at once and yet they felt airy. On the drums, a friend commented that he was impressed at how much sound Olavi could produce from so few drums. And Mats seemed to be always there, supporting, leading or progressing complex tunes that hung in the air at their ending. And together they created a beautiful sound. It was captivating.

So a composition like Pearl by Alexi or Cyan (?) by Olavi was able to be simultaneously dense and shimmering yet full of space. Magical. There were sounds like creaking timber, I felt I was on a ship going down, there was a feeling of dread and fear and then it was lifted so gently. One composition started with a lovely piano melody like the remembrance of summers past, wistful and gentle. I think this may have morphed into Bob Dylan’s The times they are a-changin but like Brad Mehldau, Alexi keeps standards very well hidden.

Their new album will be out in April on Edition Records. It is called Seven Hills and features the Portuguese guitarist André Fernandes. If anything, the album is more accessible than the performance last night but I like being challenged and I got the feeling that the band relished being in the same room for a few hours, an occurrence that is unlikely to be repeated often from now on as they pursue their other projects. Their modesty as a band was overwhelming and it was a great privilege to hear them live. Five stars.

Alexi Tumarila, piano

Mats Eilertsen, bass

Olavi Louhivuori, drums





BBC Radio3 Jazz Line-Up 10 Nov 2012 – being there…

Three gigs in one, could you ask for more? Jazz Line-up at the Clore Ballroom, Southbank Centre offered us three very different short sets, each giving us an insight into the creative process that you don’t usually get in a live performance. The first, from Aruán Ortiz, a Cuban pianist whose quintet included Michael Janisch on bass and Greg Osby on saxophone was a fairly uncompromising upbeat set which felt very New York to me with its hard driving grooves. Just the thing to warm us up. The band keep in touch by Skype which must be an interesting way to rehearse when you are on different continents.

Then came pianist Tigran Hamasyan who divides his time between New York and Paris. His La Petite Esperance moved me greatly, I was captivated in an instant, sat forward in my seat holding my breath, I heard his home country of Armenia, gentle folk melodies, mourning for a lost way of life. It wasn’t just technique, there was such depth of feeling. I knew I had just heard a pianist who will be as great as Brad Mehldau. The busy Clore Ballroom went silent, rivetted by this slight figure hunched over the piano. Then he played an improvised piece with piano, voice, xylophone and electronics. Then What the waves brought combined piano, whistling and voice. Babies squealed in the crowd but we were transported to his native land-locked country for just a few minutes. He tried to get us to clap in the most difficult rhythm imaginable, we all failed dismally, raising my already soaring respect for drummers. He told us that he had a great respect for Armenian poetry which certainly added to the romance of La Petite Esperance.

Finally, Oddarrang from Finland, part of the Sound of Finland series. I reviewed Oddarrang’s Cathedral earlier this year here and I was really keen to see how their beautifully mixed, subtle sound with electronics would hold up in the ballroom. I need not have worried, the mix of instruments – guitars, cello, trombone, voice, drums and piano, and electronics stood up perfectly, the quiet bits silenced the crowd near the bar. We were treated to the UK premier of Self Portrait which started so quietly and then became very loud. It’s about a film called Self Portrait. Olavi explained that Finland is a quiet country, where silence is the default so it was inevitable that his music would have lovely delicate long spaces. People stayed in their seats for the 6pm set with Oddarrang, there was a real buzz of anticipation – Finland no longer seemed a gloomy country if it could create such magical sounds. We had loud sounds too – a rather frightening, menacing new track that they played in the 6pm set. There were noises like nails on a blackboard (ouch), deep rumblings and ghost-like sounds, and at one stage all the musicians appeared to be twiddling with knobs on gadgets! It bodes very well for their next album which will be released on Edition Records in August 2013.

We knew we were at a recording for radio as we had to applaud on request for sound levels. That wasn’t hard as we’d had an extremely good afternoon. After the gig I heard Kevin LeGendre tell a friend that he thought Olavi’s piano trio of ten years ago was one of the best he’d heard in Europe! And this was just my first gig of the London Jazz Festival 2012. It’s already top-notch, it can’t get better than this can it?