Saturday, March 14, 2020

Raoul Björkenheim - Solar Winds (Long Song Records, 2020)

Finnish-American guitarist Raoul Björkenheim meets a trio of talented Italian musicians on this very well crafted album dedicated to the memory of John Coltrane. Silvia Bolognesi on bass, Tiziano Tononi on drums and percussion and Emanuele Parrini on violin come together with the guitarist to create an album that melds fusion and free with great success. "Joy" has urgent bowed bass and percussion with jabs of guitar moving into a snarling interplay with the violin, creating a dynamic collective improvisation and letting loose a stellar guitar solo. There's room for a fine bass solo with percussion framing, leading to a shimmering full band finish. Solo bass opens "Transition," sounding deep and truthful, with the band eventually crashing in with slashing cymbals supporting intertwined guitar and violin. There is a swooping violin solo, over crushing drums, then Bjorkenheim's guitar joins, leading to flat out fusion excitement, and white hot collective improvisation. "Solar Winds" comes on faster, the band chomping at bit with potential energy, lifting off with torrid intensity led by a steaming guitar lead and pummeling drums. Over the top interaction at high speed leads to a more open section for violin and roiling drums in deep tension. Everyone returns for a surging full band conclusion. Stoic bass sets the table on "Saturn" for supersonic guitar soloing with massive drums not far behind. Björkenheim is fast and focused, setting the fascinating theme and allowing the bass and drums to have their say, as well as a swirling violin section. Their playing is white hot leading to an enthusiastic big yell of "yeah!" at the end. They slow down with "Peace on Earth," with a spacey feel spiritual jazz feeling, using shaken bells around searing spears of guitar, weaving in and out. This leads to the finale, "Volition" which uses deep bass and drum groove to support a pithy guitar and violin theme, where the sawing violin keeps the energy very high, guitar plpaying chords. The leader then takes over  with a passionate solo, presenting a kaleidoscopic burst of sound color. Solar Winds -

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