Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola is one of our greatest jazz heroes. He made that very clear to us with six great albums in a row. And with his most recent albums Bullhorn (2015) and Pekka (2017), an ode to his father jazz bassist Pekka Pohjola, especially.
After a number of collaboration albums, including the very beautiful, fully improvised, Animal Image (2018) with percussionist Mikka Kallio, and of course the reunion album Land of Real Man (2019) by Ilmillieki Quartet, it is time for a full album by himself: The Dead Don Dream.
With Mikka Kallio on drums, Antti Lötjönen on double bass and Tuomo Prättälä on piano and electronics, Pohjola has reunited the band that made Pekka so masterful. It once shows why we should keep a close eye on the Finnish jazz scene. Such great musicians they are and with Pauli Lyytinen on sax (both soprano and tenor) and Miikka Paatelainen on pedal steel, the gueats on this album are equally just as talented.
From the very first moment, in album opener Monograph, Pohjola makes it clear that he is stretching his musical adventure considerably for The Dead Don’t Dream. He continues the use of dreamy electronic atmospheres that started on Pekka, just like the improvised/free sounds that he lays down with his trumpet. A fantasically groovy set, masterfully executed. What a great album opening.
The following Wilder Brother is actually even better. Pohjola and Lyytinen enter into a very nice duel that yields pure winners for the listener. The adventurous Voices Heard, on the other hand, is a long drawn-out composition that is driven by improvisation and pure jazz displaying fantastic musical skills.
The equally beautifully drawn out title track may be considered the highlight of the album. A timeless trumpet melody that is expanded very beautifully with the band. At a slow pace with plenty of room for Pohjola to bring his self-assured and majestic trumpet sounds, to the foreground. Very nice piano playing by Prättälä too by the way. How intriguingly beautiful is Argirr, especially when the track falls into silence halfway through and from there, with a drone sound in the background, it continues magically and spherically.
The dark Suspended then closes the album with atmosphere and tension. With Pohjola again in the star role, nicely surrounded by a penetrating bass (Lötjönen is a wonderful musician too), slow pushing drums, fine atmospheric electronics and beautiful interplay with both sax and pedal steel. Seeking adventure is what really makes musicians better. Once again, Pohjola shows us how it is done on The Dead Don’t Dream and he continues to amaze with his playing and compositions. Mature technique as the basis for full emotions. Pohjola is on his way to eternal jazz fame.