Turning tragedy into a triumph of life, Finnish ensemble try and fathom one’s anguish through improvisatory grandeur.
There’s an unmeasurable pain in the loss of the beloved, especially a young woman; there’s an immense courage in finding the strength to share the joy she used to bring to those who knew her with those who didn’t; there’s loneliness to fight to forge ahead and seeing beauty in the world she left behind. When Tapio Ylinen’s wife passed away, the stream of tunes that filled his soul and needed to be poured out could have taken the form of another solo album yet, in order to properly externalize the composer’s suffering and let him move on, the help of friends was required and, thus, this project came into existence. Consisting of two tripartite pieces and two little epics, “Mortality” may seem lachrymose in places but the jazzy opuses on display never feel like laments – on the contrary, it’s a celebration of living, both in the past and in the moment, en route to the future.
The album opens with a suspenseful, sorrowful guitar figure, half-hinting at “Ode To Joy” against a stark strum – Tapio’s sole appearance on the record as an instrumentalist – before Aki Rissanen’s piano and Jori Huhtala’s bass deepen the “In Memoriam…” theme and send it to Jere Haakana’s exquisite six strings and Verneri Pohjola’s optimistic trumpet. They allow light harmonies pierce the dirge, go off on a tragically bent tangent of improv sort and then return to the original melody from a different, riff-stricken angle. The flow will run from the delicate to the vigorous, oozing joie de vivre, until “Death’s Little Sisters” gets down on the ivories-delivered sadness, smeared with Pauli Lyytinen’s sax and Pekka’s son’s brass, only for the titular number to soar, propelled by Mika Kallio’s drums not without a tad of drama, to celestial bliss.
So if “Towards Dawn” floats into focus in a rather elegiac fashion, its melancholy doesn’t linger longer than it’s necessary to establish an aural translucence and heat up the collective’s performance, introducing a Latinesque air and a faux-orchestral scope to the overall panorama and transforming the cut first into a stained glass and then into a fierce ring of fire. That’s the exact point where pondering about one’s earthly impermanence becomes a key to this concept’s opposite, and there’s no better soundtrack to immortality than what MORTALITY shaped here.