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Iro Haarla & Pepa Paivinen
Yarra Yarra
November Music (

Here is a new partnership of two fine musicians who were close allies of the late Finnish Jazz drummer, composer and bandleader Edward Vesala (1945-1999). Iro Haarla, his widow in fact, plays harp, piano and jeng. The ex-Sound and Fury frontman "Pepa" Paivinen plays soprano, tenor, and baritone saxophones along with alto flute. Together they are a well-matched team who create a timeless space in these ten works, half of them written by Vesala and offered as homage to him. For the better part of this hour-long set Haarla is the feminine blue light and vaporous set maker who often holds Paivinen, the male presence pining wistful, delicate, endeared but also pained, neurotic, and quietly tortured. It is an intriguing world that wiggles past the indulgence of free jazz, and combines an organic sparseness reminiscent of oriental ritual music with soulful northern melodies, all at the same time, to emerge its own distinct entity. Haarla executes principally in an ambient, consonant, often melodic and smoothly non-metrical approach but can also take center stage; Paivinen breaks the stillness with his confident but not over strident horns mostly favoring musicality over abstraction, and infrequently providing support to Haarla. In selections like "Winter Twilight" time as it is usually known in scripted performance has completely come to a halt and we are floating in the open architecture of Haarla & Paivinen.

Neither ever plays the same thing yet they are each a mystic conjugate somehow in these miniature worlds of short dream and slow ballet. Though close to the rare occasion when an album of art music soothes, the more intense tracks like "Ready To Go" and (notably) "Invisible Storm" seem to take one into the consciousness of northerners deprived of light and warmth in the dead of winter. Anyone who has in an inner life of their own will relate. Though some may prefer a more even keel, all told there is no denying the honesty of the realities depicted in these later, longer tracks. The mildly ethereal production is just about perfect; piano and winds etch satisfying, never excessive echoes and summon the soft image of moonlight and shadow on ice. Yarra means flowing and throughout even the difficult passages, this is exactly what comes to pass. While meditative moments are possible during segments of these airy explorations, the listener's complete attention during the dark testing stretches may also be redeeming. The beautiful paper-bound package, and superb sound will likely please any devotee of arctic improvisation. - Steve Taylor

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