Sarmanto, Heikki - A Boston Date (Mega Blowout Sale)

SKU Porter 4002
"Finnish pianist-composer Heikki Sarmanto spent 1968-1971 in Boston studying at Berklee and engaging the cream of the local musicians’ crop in what would be the Serious Music Ensemble. In between dates for Finnish EMI (which Porter Records will also be reissuing), Sarmanto cut over an hour’s worth of improvisation with soon-to-be cohorts in Boston in December 1970. He’s joined here by regular foil, saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen, local drummer Craig Herndon and guitarist Lance Gunderson (who would also form the nucleus of the SME), and Czech bassist George Mraz, who was at the time also at Berkelee. The set is comprised of six originals, mostly segued from one to the next. After a series of brief tenor-piano flourishes on “Top of the Prude” that allow Aaltonen’s throaty howl to get a little room, Sarmanto is off at a run atop the rhythm section’s loose clip. Sarmanto is a little hard to figure in terms of where he’s coming from, though Paul Bley and fellow Berklee-ite Keith Jarrett wouldn’t be unapt comparisons for how he mates floridness with bluesy turnarounds. Lush arpeggios and clanging ziggurats of instantaneous sacredness characterize his approach with a keen sense of architecture. As Herndon and Mraz shade around them, Sarmanto and Gunderson develop a curious dialogue of scumbled blues and erudite chords. There’s a brief tenor spot before Mraz’ engine gets to stretch amid rattles and plinks. A restatement of the theme leads into the pensive ballad “A Different Kind of Smile,” Aaltonen rough-hewn and skronky with multiphonics at the ready, imbuing the ensemble's languid glassiness with a high degree of tension. In addition to Sarmanto, Aaltonen’s horns have graced heavy free platters by Peter Brötzmann (the infamous 1972 date Hot Lotta, on Blue Master) and countryman, drummer Edward Vesala. While his tone isn’t exactly reigned in anywhere on this disc, the introspective openness provided by Sarmanto’s compositions clearly gives his sandblasted muse another quality. Though the set weighs heavily on the leader's romantic postbop and interplay with Gunderson, Aaltonen's unbridled tenor is used much the way as Gato Barbieri was on Alan Shorter's Orgasm (Verve, 1968) - as a short-burst textural foil. Aaltonen is spotlighted on "Run" and the centerpiece "Ibiza," where his raw, reedy howls purify unaccompanied around the eleven-minute mark. His solo follows the guitarist’s blues-rock fuel as Gunderson upends and invigorates pianistic poise with crystalline fretwork. Though sketchily outlined here, one can make out the symphonic framework that has been the basis for Sarmanto’s work since, the gospelized odes and light-filled masses at this early stage couched in dusky small-group angles. While the group continued on in Finland, A Boston Date provides a valuable window into the beginnings of their inter-continental and highly ordered collaboration."
  • LabelPorter
  • UPC656605854625
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