Jussi Reijonen – “Serpentine”
Boston-based Finnish musician Jussi Reijonen grew up moving from place to place. As a youngster he spent time living in five countries across three continents. Western and Eastern musical traditions left a lasting impression on Reijonen so it’s no surprise he crosses any cultural divide with ease. His quintet draws talent from around the world. With Turkish pianist Utar Artun, Swedish double bassist Bruno Råberg, Palestinian percussionist Tareq Rantisi and Spanish percussionist Sergio Martinez, Reijonen and his dynamic ensemble sound capable of tackling any challenge on their latest CD, un.
While some artists choose to focus on a single style of music or one instrument, Reijonen travels between cultures with fretless/fretted guitars and an 11-string Arabic lute oud in hand. Spending time in Northern Finland, the Middle East and East Africa shaped Reijonen’s musical approach and gave him a global outlook on life.
“I was never fully of any one culture, of any one walk of life, of any one mold, yet this is exactly what makes me the individual and musician that I am. Growing up how I did, I am by default a fusion of cultures, so for my music to be honest, it must be a fusion of cultures.” – Jussi Reijonen
From the opening of the thrilling “Serpentine” to the closing notes of the beautiful “Kaiku,” Reijonen successfully takes all of these international influences and let’s them shape the music in a cohesive way. Composing, arranging and producing un himself, Reijonen sets a terrific pace with the sequencing of the album. A slow, spiritual Indian-based rhythmic ostinato version of John Coltrane’s “Naima” delicately balances between the driving sound of “Serpentine” and “Bayatiful.” The latter track is co-written by Palestinian qanun great Ali Amr, whose solo along with Reijonen’s tremendous oud playing propels this song to a powerful finish. “Toumani (Blues for Mick)” imagines a kora improvision by Mali’s Toumani Diabaté translated to electric guitar by Reijonen who captures many of the kora’s nuances. “Nuku Sie” reveals Reijonen’s engaging approach on the fretless guitar as he duets masterfully with Råberg’s acoustic bass. “Kaiku” ends the record with a guest appearance by Eva Louhivuori whose passionate voice closes un.
With a CD this compelling, it’s no wonder Reijonen has performed with an array of artists including jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette, flamenco cantaor Pepe de Lucia, Spanish producer and flamenco guitarist Javier Limón, Palestinian oud/violin maestro Simon Shaheen, fretless guitar wizard David Fiuczynski, Turkish clarinetist Hüsnü Şenlendirici, and Lebanese nay master Bassam Saba, to name several.