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Mikko Karjalainen Fellowship Quintet — Fellowship
(Eclipse Music ECD-2020126, 2020, CD / LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-05-16

Fellowship Cover art

Mikko Karjalainen is one of the most in-demand trumpet players in Finland, and has recording credits going back to the mid-90s, but Fellowship is his first release as a leader. His Fellowship Quintet features Antti Lötjönen (double bass), Jussi Lehtonen (drums), Holger Marjamaa (piano), and Petri Puolitaival (saxophone, flute). The overall vibe is very reminiscent of some of the best jazz of the 60s — I’m thinking about the classic Blue Note releases by Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock — but the playing is fresh and doesn’t sound like it’s stuck in the past. “Manago Blues” is a standout that really sounds like it could be a track from Maiden Voyage, and “Federer” is a very fast bop tune that maintains an amazing energy level for its four minutes, with Lehtonen’s drum work particularly impressive. Some jazz purists may be put off by the guest vocals by Karri “Paleface” Miettinen, whose spoken parts — I wouldn’t really call it rapping — appear on two tracks. I’ll admit that the first time I heard “A Second Notice,” his emphatic delivery threw me for a loop, but I soon started to appreciate how well-crafted his words were. He rails against the failings of the human race, primarily in our treatment of the Earth, and decries the selfish materialism that is so dominant in our world. Hardly unique sentiments, to be sure, but his phrasing and use of specifics is quite impressive. “Overweight, unshaved entertainment business predators ripping through Earth’s underwear, ejaculating hydraulic fluids, constantly looking for ways to blame the victim — This is the second notice.” I’m reminded more of the way poetry appeared in 60s jazz than modern attempts to fuse jazz with rap. All in all, Fellowship is a fine jazz album with one foot in the present and one in the past.

Filed under: New releases, 2020 releases

Related artist(s): Mikko Karjalainen

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