It's strange to think of Finland as a centre of the tango, but it is. I'd learnt it before on a previous visit to the Finnish Embassy for a visiting band. We heard it again tonight in just one tune that was obvious tango. The Jukka Perko Avara Trio were touring. It seemed an unusual combination: sax (soprano and alto) ad two guitars. I wondered about the groove, but I didn't need to; it was solid and present and frequently infectious. I wondered about the two guitars and their interaction. I didn't need to. This was an amplified acoustic guitar (steel strung, I think) with an electric. This looked like a Strat, but was painted, seemed to have replacement pickups, but I thought it was the Fender headstock. Both guitars utilised effects and loops, but the electric much more so. The music was tango, but mostly what seemed to be local, folk-influenced tunes. One was described as swinging jazz from a German tune. Others were originals with Finnish themes sounding of nature and snow and a very different environment to Australia. They joked that this was almost their summer (Canberra was cold and still outside). Red Leaves was the tango; Water of the black trench was about the last melting snows running is dark trenches; Guardian angel was a century old, very popular Finnish folk tune. There was a pleasant humour here. "We got lost many times ... that's jazz", "You play the wrong note, if you play is twice it becomes jazz". Best was about their cultural nature: "Finns never doubt tunes played in minor; if major, they hear too much European influence"; minor keys are the truth. Like much Scandinavian music, this was a different take on jazz. I was taken by the perfectly solid grooves, the softly spoken sax with that soft attack playing mostly consonant, the production-like effects from the e-guitar and the firm tones of solos and strums from the acoustic. Mostly I was taken by an ensemble musicality that lured us into lyrical melody and floating grooves and easy rhythms that didn't jar but fed the senses, often meditative or pensive, often feeling of the outdoors and nature, but with a personal touch and some humour between tunes. It's not a jazz of individualism although I did really enjoy Jukka's sax, but a work of an ensemble. Small but grooving and lyrical with a chilly edge of cold nature. Much enjoyed.
Jukka Perko (alto, soprano saxes) led his Avara Trio with Teemu Viinikainen (acoustic guitar) and Jarmo Saari (electric guitar). Promoter Henk van Leeuwen of Australia Northern Europe Liaisons sat in to sing an encore.