Guitarist Raoul Björkenheim’s second album with his group eCsTaSy, shows them further developing their vision of modern jazz that looks to mix melodic song forms with longer collectively improvised tracks. The remainder of the band consists of Pauli Lyytinen on saxophones, Jori Huhtala on bass and Markku Ounaskari on drums. “Heads and Tails” has and slow and probing opening for sharp and metallic guitar and bass. Drums build in for a nicely developing trio section, and then a saxophone slides in as well to fill out the sound. Lyytinen ‘s saxophone digs in with a raw and gritty sound and the rest of the group responds, building to an excellent cacophony. Excellent free soloing from the saxophonist, reaching for the stars with ample support from the remaining trio, makes way for a shift to a full band improvisation scouring the music that lays before them until they meet the finish line. There is a jazzier feel to “Quintrille” with the music sounding fast paced and knotty, with soprano saxophone swirling and swooping. Björkenheim’s effects laden guitar then takes center stage for a short wild solo, before everyone returns together under some superb saxophone playing. “Uptown” is hot right off the bat, with driving bass and snarling guitar, chomping like a rabid dog. Saxophone gracefully moves in with excellent bass support from Huhtala and then everybody stays hot. There is a very interesting rhythm from Ounaskari on “OLJ” along with smears of saxophone and guitar, making the music ominous and foreboding. Big slabs of electric guitar, building edifies of noise and then suddenly… silence. “Roller Coaster” has swirling soprano saxophone with a fine bass solo inserted. The music is very fast and intricate, with flurries of notes and yearning saxophone against shards of guitar and powerful drumming. The band works very well together, moving through sub-genres of jazz as a cohesive unit. They allow the music to shift dynamically from composed to free, and Björkenheim’s shows his chops in areas from progressive rock to abstract improvisation. And you can’t beat that album cover. Out of the Blue - amazon.com
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