Cover: Pekka Tuppurainen
|Performer||Koko Jazz Orchestra|
Jussi Lehtonen & Jussi Fredriksson
|Where recorded||YLE M1|
Capable of sounding like a miniature big band and smaller ensemble depending on a situation, Koko Jazz Orchestra is a refreshing line-up in the field of Finnish music. On their debut album, the eight-piece performs the music of Jussi Lehtonen and Jussi Fredriksson.
Koko Jazz Orchestra was originally formed in 2012 to serve as the house band at the then newly-formed Koko Jazz Club in Helsinki. The group released their long-awaited debut, Presenting the Music of Jussi Lehtonen and Jussi Fredriksson, on 21 November 2014 on label Fredriksson Music. As the title suggests, the album displays the finesse of two major players of Finnish jazz, Jussi Lehtonen and Jussi Fredriksson, as composers. Both Jussis have written and arranged three pieces for the group, but also their input as instrumentalists can be enjoyed on the album.
The crew on KJO’s album represents the top of Finnish jazz. Trumpeter Tero Saarti, sax players Petri Puolitaival and Joonatan Rautio and trombonist Kasperi Sarikoski form a tight-knit horn section that knows how to pull on the same rope while possessing plenty of soloistic potential. The rhythm section consists, in addition to the composer pair Lehtonen and Fredriksson, of the young double-bass talent Eero Seppä and veteran percussionist Tapio “Mongo” Aaltonen.
The orchestra can be positioned somewhere in between a big band and a small ensemble. The four-member horn section and the rhythm section that has been extended by a percussion player enable the group to introduce some big band influences and textures into their music. Jussi Lehtonen’s Latin-influenced compositions have edge and speed, while his “Ballad For Loila” lures a softer side out of the orchestra. Jussi Fredriksson’s nuanced compositions rely on solid swing and their abrupt twists inspire imaginative soloistic performances.