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Jussi Reijonen’s debut album titled un, which was released on Feb. 26, 2013, reflects his growing up on three different continents both in his original compositions and his instrumentation. Reijonen, who is Finnish guitarist and oudist (an 11-string Arabic lute,) is accompanied by pianist Utar Artun, acoustic bassist Bruno Råberg and Tareq Rantisi and Sergio Martinez on percussion with Ali Amur on the qanun, which is a zither (a string instrument with a narrow trapezoidal soundboard) and Eva Louhivuori on vocals. The sweeping spaces of Scandinavia smoothly combine with the maqamat (a system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music) of the Arab world and the rhythmic abundance of India and West Africa, creating a captivating musical montage. Reijonen’s quintet’s members share impressive resumes having worked with jazz and world music legends like Paul Simon, Bobby McFerrin, Enrique Morente, Diego el Cigala, Maria Schneider, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Alejandro Sanz among others. These seasoned musicians hail from all over including Finland, Turkey, Sweden, Palestine and Spain. Their eclectic backgrounds fill un with both Eastern and Western musical traditions as well as respecting American and Nordic jazz and folk conventions of the Middle East and Africa on four pieces composed and arranged by Reijonen.
“Naima” a classic by American jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane, is given a vastly different bend by Reijonen and his crew. The song takes a bit to get going but then Reijonen spaces out the strumming of his fretless guitar as Artun’s piano play gives the song an unexpected classical vibe. Råberg’s acoustic bass along with Rantisi and Martinez’s percussion work play softly in the background. “Serpentine” opens with Reijonen on the oud, giving the song a Middle Eastern rhythm. Råberg’s acoustic bass in the background brings a jazzy vibe and Rantisi and Martinez’s percussion work play complement them seamlessly. “Bayatiful” has Reijonen continuing the Middle Eastern pulse but Amur joins in on the qanun. It’s slower than the previous tracks and has a meditative pace. Råberg’s acoustic bass brings a deep flow but Artun’s piano then lightens the song’s mood up again as does Rantisi and Martinez’s percussion work. Finally, “Kaiku” begins with Artun’s tickling of the ivories then Louhivuori’s hypnotic humming starts. Then, Råberg’s acoustic bass has a darkness to it, which adds to the somewhat ominous vibe of the song.
To conclude, un from Jussi Reijonen has a cluster of varied musicians each contributing their individual style, instrumentation and musical backgrounds to compile an album filled with musical mores that span the globe.