Pianist, keyboarder and composer Kari Ikonen (born in 1973) is undoubtedly one of the most renowned Finnish jazz performers on the scene today. After gaining international esteem through his work with the Karikko-Sextet, he is now turning his full attention to the expressive possibilities of the trio constellation: ‘The trio format allows for a lot of improvisatory freedom in my opinion. Especially if you're working with versatile musicians like Ara and Markku, it can considerably expand your sonic palette.'
Coming from him, that is saying quite a bit. After all, Ikonen has participated in the recording of more than thirty full-length albums, performed with luminaries such as Bob Mintzer, Vincent Curtois and Ron McClure and scored for ensembles such as the UMO Jazz Orchestra.
On Bright, Ikonen and his combatants are serving up a menu of to-the-point originals, fresh interpretations of traditional Armenian folk songs and a selection of jazz standards, including John Coltrane's ‘Giant Steps' and Jule Styne's ‘I Fall In Love Too Easily'. And yet, the opener of the release is Ikonen's very own ‘Bapmgwala', on which the group embark on a weightless trip on the wings of African rhythms and harmonic abstractions. ‘Ambivalsante' approximates the harmonic timbres of the Bill Evans trio, while ‘Plumbum' sees Ikonen hammering his way through a barrage of heavy-metal-piano-phrases. On ‘The Testament of my heart' and ‘Trance Oriental', meanwhile, bass-virtuoso Ara Yaralyan's jaw-dropping technique is adding splashes of cello-sounds to the compositions of his Armenian compatriot Gushan Ashot. And as if this weren't enough, Markku
Ounaskarias's drumming and Ikonen's piano preparations are adding an irresistible swing and flow to every bar of music.
Infusing mystic harmonies with a meditative calm, these are forward-looking improvisations. And yet, they're never progress for progress's sake, instead upholding a fragile balance between Ikonen's compositional aspirations and individual freedom for the performers. Bright is not just another piano trio recording - it is a confident step into the major league of this genre.