Teemu Mattsson has learned from the best in the world of Finnish jazz. A graduate of the Sibelius Academy Jazz Department, the thirty-two year old trumpet player studied with musicians such as Tim Hagans, Jukka Perko, Jukkis Uotila, Randy Brecker, Bobby Shew and Ingrid Jenson. Most recently, Mattsson held the lead trumpet chair in the UMO Jazz Orchestra, Finland’s sole professional big band. This self-titled album is his first CD, done with his quintet, which contains some of Finland’s finest jazz musicians. The album is focused on using simple musical ideas to convey strong melodies and moods. It also shows Mattsson’s abilities as a composer, giving us 6 original tracks.
After opening with a haunting, echoing trumpet feature in "Enne", Mattsson jumps into "Northern Tribe", one of his original compositions, and likely my favorite track of the album. This is a beautiful example of creating a mood using a simple idea. The simple yet elegant melody played by Mattsson contrasts the busy, Latin-like beat being laid down. From there, keyboardist Mikael Jakobsson gives a great solo, interplaying with drummer Teemu Eronen. Throughout the solo section, the accompaniment grows more present, again contrasting the soloists’ simpler lines. The contrast between the two creates feelings of conflict, of trying to rise above the chaos. The melody also has a certain longing quality to it, a wanting to resolve but being unable to find a way. At least, that’s this reviewer’s interpretation.
The whole album isn’t quite so solemn. "Endless Way" is a moving, quick-paced tune with a bossa nova feel, reminiscent in some ways of a Pat Metheny composition. Again, the lines are simple and very melodic. The piece best shows how well this group can blend sounds. The group brings in Ari Jokelainen on soprano saxophone for this number. He and Mattsson play overlapping sections of the melody, finally coming together in a beautiful, rising harmony. Jakobsson gives another superb piano solo, emphasizing certain notes and rhythms to provide a counterpoint to the melody.
"Pulse" takes a different approach entirely. Instead of the long tone, melodic lines of most of Mattsson’s compositions, here he plays a scalar, halting, eighth note line. Accompanied by Teemu Viinikainen’s guitar and a vocal chorus over a fast 4/4 beat, the line is disjointed and distinguished not for it’s blending or resolving, but for its lack of either. Intensity builds into Mattsson’s solo, which follows the same broken eighth note motif, but with a little more rhythmic variation. Viinikainen’s following solo is full of interplay between him and Eronen’s drums. Jakobsson adds a layer of harmonics to pad everything into place.While the concept of this album is not new, and indeed is widespread through much of European jazz music, Teemu Mattsson and his group have succeeded in developing the idea to its fullest potential. Each piece is unique in mood, expressed by detectable, yet often subtle nuances in the composition. Overall, this album shows that Mattsson is a capable composer and a soulful player as well. His next recording is to be released in the spring of 2008.