On his third CD, explorative Finnish saxophonist Esa Pietilä is performing with the fewest number of players yet, providing allowance for space as much as for sonic shapes. The one element that doesn’t concern Pietilä as much as his unfettered musical creations is repeated melodic lines or harmonic structure. For Pietilä injects immediacy and surprise into his playing by going for unplanned gems that like-minded interaction can discover through spontaneous playing. Pietilä doesn’t include any chorded instruments in his trio, and with good reason: His interests are as much about implication the spaces between the dots he punches out as about literal adherence to pre-written composition.
Bounding into "Mind Hunt," the first track, with buoyancy and immediate claim to the listener’s attention, Pietilä’s trio puts forth its strengths up front that carry it through the remainder of the album: the group’s engaged absorption in the music, the members’ interest in the infinite potential of the sounds they can create, their openness for free improvisation and the elaboration upon the conventional roles of their instruments. The result is a recording by matured and explorative musicians whose enjoyment in the process of playing jazz comes through in each of the12 tracks. Their relative lack of accessibility for the group records and performs mostly in Finland inhibits their availability throughout many of the jazz venues where groups of this caliber perform, though Pietilä usually performs at the Pori Jazz Festival, tours abroad and recorded Fastjoik
on the Dutch-based Challenge Records. The fact that Pietilä has performed with Odean Pope’s Saxophone Choir is telling, for Pietilä too follows a similar style of post-Coltrane freedom where the saxophone is a channel for profound feeling instantly expressed..
The remainder of Direct
follows a more meditative path, with slower, more carefully crafted tunes developed in unrushed fashion. The next track, "Headway," is the longest as Pietilä on tenor sax sings out the composition, mostly through implication without the crutch of piano or guitar stating the modulations, while Uffe Krokfors on bass and Markku Ounaskari on drums and percussion add their own textures, separate and complementary, until they too take the lead with mastery of their instruments shaped by ever-changing ideas.
continues, Pietilä creates shorter pieces that state his expanse of feelings in concise bits of improvisatorial urgency, either through the swirling excitement of "Direct" or the resonant, trance-like ruminations of "A Sign," akin to John Klemmer, with haunting overtones, as Krokfors bows with contrasting energetic force and Ounaskari adds ornamental percussive elements, the whisper of brushes or the barely audible tapping of cymbals or the hand drumming for a sense of mysteriousness. "So Is..." involves solely descending whole notes played harmonically but in unison by Pietilä and Krokfors while Ounaskari inserts the rippling undercurrent animating the piece. To end Direct,
Pietilä starts "Triangles" mostly as an unaccompanied free improvisation, a cadenza, before the second and third elements of Pietilä’s trio come in for a free exchange before the abrupt ending.
Although Esa Pietilä’s recordings aren’t as heavily promoted as those of saxophonists on larger labels, his work is that of an always explorative saxophonist, accessible though with a personal perspective toward the music he plays. And Direct
is the work of a jazz artist worth the search.