Exposé Online banner

Raoul Björkenheim — Ecstasy
(Cuneiform Rune 373, 2014, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2014-05-18

Ecstasy Cover art

Ecstasy finds Raoul Björkenheim in a quartet setting with drums, upright bass, and saxophone along with his guitar. The band has been playing together since 2010, and they've forged bonds of highly intuitive communication, blurring the lines between composition and improvisation. All four are inventive players, capable of dazzling the listener, more with creativity than technical prowess. Björkenheim's playing has the free-wheeling intensity of Sonny Sharrock, and his tones remind me of Terje Rypdal at times, but he's his own man, and his approach to what the electric guitar should do in this otherwise acoustic context knows no boundaries, sometimes using fairly clean tones, sometimes distorted. This is a very different sound from when I last heard him (on Blixt). Saxophonist Pauli Lyytinen plays tenor and soprano (I think — the credits aren't specific), and manages to keep the soprano from sounding wimpy and overly pretty like it so often does. His breath and grit form a lot of the appeal to the recording. After the two energetic pieces that start the CD, we get "Deeper," with cavernous arco bass from Jori Huhtala, and moody long tones on the other instruments; drummer Markku Ounaskari provides sputtering accompaniment. Such free pieces fit well with the composed tracks, which are interpreted very loosely, usually consisting almost exclusively of a melody stated on the sax with the guitar either doubling it or providing commentary. Aside from the melody, there may be a few rhythmic motifs that bring the band together, serving as a springboard for improvisation, that that's it — no fancy polyphony or complex arrangements. On "Through the Looking Glass," things get a bit more freaky, with Björkenheim indulging in some extensive knob-twiddling. But every track has great moments to offer, and Ecstasy is a kick from start to finish. Put it together with Dylan Ryan's Sand and you've got hope for the future of jazz.


Filed under: New releases, 2014 releases

Related artist(s): Raoul Björkenheim

More info
http://cuneiformrecords.bandcamp.com/album/ecstasy

Latest news

2018-09-05
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more

2018-07-31
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Ian Carr's Nucleus - Out of the Long Dark & Old Heartland – One of the last incarnations of Nucleus from the late 70s featured Carr along with long-time cohort Brian Smith on reeds. Geoff Castle, Billy Kristian, and Roger Sellers rounded out this version of...  (2003) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues