Maria Kalaniemi and Aldargaz
Rockadillo (Finland) / Northside (US)
In three recordings on her own (plus side gigs and other ensembles too numerous to list) and in the concerts I have been lucky enough to hear, accordionist
Maria Kalaniemi has proved herself a phenomenal technician, a sensitive player with an unusually vibrant, physical approach to the
instrument, a strong composer and a vital interpreter of other writers. She has toured the world, introducing us to her brand of "newly
composed folk music" from Finland, and has handily thrown the term "folk" into chaos as she and her fellow musicians push into pop,
jazz and art music in a way that makes the music impossible to categorize.
Ahma is a composers' album, with contributions from Kalaniemi, a number of new works by
pianist Timo Alakotila and one each from guitarist Olli Varis and bassist Tapani Varis. The
writing runs from the exuberant ("Ahma" and the brief burst of hyper-energy that is "Kampi")
to the pastoral ("Kaamos"), from the romantic ("Ängskär") to the austere (T. Varis'
"Nautilus"). It is also an arrangers' album, and the collaboration of Kalaniemi and Alakotila has
never been stronger on that front. The six piece ensemble Aldargaz includes Petri Hakala on
mandolins and Arto Järvelä on violin, and the group is as fine-tuned as they could be;
Aldargaz has hit its stride, with enough time now to have developed that unifying sixth sense
that marks great ensemble playing. They are aided and abetted by the fiddlers from JPP and
occasional outbursts from a drummer and a horn section, all pulled tightly together by
arrangements that can surprise and one or twice amaze. Ahma finally takes Kalaniemi out of
the "folk" music box and into the broader world of popular composer and musician, and she seems poised to move even further outside in the future. – Cliff Furnald
Audio: "Kamppi" composed by Maria Kalaniemi, published by Zen Master/Finland
©1999,2001 Rockadillo (Finland), Northside (US)
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