Karuna: Hyvää Matkaaa

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Hyvää Matkaa
Ääniä Records (www.aania.fi)

The title of this first album from the Finnish band Karuna translates to "have a nice trip." Actually, the English translation provided is "bon voyage" which speaks to the polyglot nature of the English language. Regardless of the translation, listeners are indeed taken on an enjoyable trip through new compositions anchored in traditional folk dance music.

Playing both nyckelharpa and fiddle, Esko Järvelä may be the most familiar member of this band through his involvement with Baltic Crossing, Frigg, and Tsuumi Sound System. He is joined by Teija Niku on accordion and Juha Kujanpää who not only plays piano and harmonium but also composed 11 of the 12 tracks.

Many of these tunes use traditional dance forms. The waltz, the mazurka, and the minuet are represented, all of which are based on triple meter which works especially well for this ensemble. The tunes are often light and quiet, created more for listening than for dancing, reminiscent of the way that Chopin or Scriabin used dance forms in their piano music.

Arranging for piano and accordion together takes some special skills. It would be easy for the instruments to get in each other's way and muddy up the sound. Kujanpää shows his arranging skills and his playing works very well with Niku's as they trade off between melodic and supporting roles. There are some similarities here with the Danish trio Zenobia who also deftly balance accordion and piano.

The title track is the standout, a tune with a singable, joyful melody, performed on accordion, harmonium, and nyckelharpa along with some solid snare drum work from guest musician Hannu Risku. The two reed instruments compliment each other nicely, while the accordion and nyckelharpa harmony lines work really well together. The drums add forward motion without getting in the way.

The title of the album could be read as an admonition to listeners or as an announcement of a new journey for this trio. Or perhaps it could be seen as a reminder that performers and listeners are always on a voyage together. In any case, this is definitely a nice trip and I'm really pleased to be aboard. - Greg Harness

CD available from cdRoots

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CD available from cdRoots

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