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Album Review

Here's a twist for you — a Finnish band playing newly composed soul-jazz and post-bop music. The Five Corners ensemble is clearly influenced by the Horace Silver/Lee Morgan/Art Blakey strain of '60s jazz, and even uses recording techniques that are reminiscent of the reel-to-reel two-track era. Saxophonist Timo Lassy and trumpeter Jukka Eskola front this well-heeled jazz band that harkens back to better times for the music, and feels good doing it without resorting to funk or dance music. When you hear tracks like the handclap induced "Skinny Dipping," the delightful soul traipse "Waltz Up," or the echoed "Shake It," it is clear where this music takes its information from. Lassy proves his versatility in stepping away from his John Coltrane influenced side going more for a Hank Mobley/Joe Henderson approach He's especially good playing flute during the excellent "Habib's Habit," a hip modal piece that swings hard, and fully showcases the considerable gifts of pianist Mikael Jakobsson. "Hot Rod" is a spy swing jazz with a basic melody, while "Midnight in Trieste" also sounds like soundtrack music with Lassy's tenor sax, the vibraphone work of guests Arttu Takalo, and Pekka Jaclin on tympani. Most of the material goes beyond the advertised five-piece combo, several cuts feature a string section — fairly unobtrusive — and the veteran vocalist Mark Murphy appears on two tracks. He sings "Kerouac Days in Montana," bringing out the '60s cruising California cool factor, while an Oliver Nelson derived "Come & Get Me" combines an orchestral approach blended in with rhythm & blues. Unfortunately, the balance between words and instruments tends to favor the music and not the singers, especially on Okou's feature "Rich in Time," where the strings and horns half-bury his thin vocals. Not only does the music have a retro feel, the production values overall reflect this, a bit muddled and murky, not sounding up to date or digital at all. Not a fault musically though, especially if you would enjoy a fresh take on mainstream jazz looking back in order to move forward. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Hot Corner, The Five Corners Quintet
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