Mia Simanainen, vocals; Kari Ikonen, piano; Sonny Heinila, sax, flute; Mika Kallio, trap drum kit, percussion
To think Ahava, a quartet from Finland, is to get lazy occasionally and think ECM. Think Erik Satie. Think the Miles Davis Quintet around the time of the quieter bits in NEFERTITI, especially Wayne Shorter's "Fall," which always seemed to me to have a Debussy languidness. Ahava has all this too but in an individual juxtaposition so you will only occasionally say, "Could Heinila, possibly, sound more like Jan Garbarek?" The tone is similar, but the solo flights have a folksier roundness, especially in the tart, Fender Rhodes-driven "Lilya." Ms. Simanainen does not float tones across the ensemble, she prefers to dart and turn majestically like the middle-period Joni Mitchell (say, HEJIRA) and she lends the air of this CD an American flavor I wasn't expecting but welcomed no end. I shouldn't forget to mention the delightful touch Kallio has on the cymbals, especially "Usvan Neito," and the pretty melodic flips Ikonen does in "Emilia." Very remniniscent of Ralph Towner's piano style on, say, Oregon's "Moon and Mind." Yes, AHAVA is made of familiar materials, but in a different way, and worth a serious listen.
by Kenneth Egbert
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