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RAAHE 99

Artist: George Haslam

Date of Release: 01/04/2012

Catalogue no: SLAMCD 328

Label: SLAM

Price: £9.99

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The Finnish tour of July 1999 – as always with Paul – was a great experience for me; the main event was our concert at the contemporary festival ‘RAAHEN RANTAJATSIT’. We had no opportunity to meet the trio of musicians with whom we were to play until briefly before the concert but it was surprising how quickly and how easily we felt together as a quintet. With Paul trombone, myself on baritone sax and tarogato, Samuli Mikkonen piano, Ulf Krokfors double bass and Mika Kallio drums the music flowed as if we had played together for years.

I remember well some events of the evening – the presence of other musicians Tony Oxley, Tomasz Stanko and more but of course my music had gone – I had not heard it, I had felt it. It was a real thrill twelve years later to learn that the concert had been recorded by Festival Director Pertti Kinnunen, who sent it to me via my good friend Pauli Hallman. We all agreed the music should be preserved as a tribute to Paul Rutherford in CD form for which author Brian Morton has written his authoritative sleeve notes.

With generous help from sponsors in Finland the recording is now finally available – a single continuous improvisation of 53 minutes.
GEORGE HASLAM

 

Reviews

 

26/08/2013 Nick Lea

George Haslam must be one of the unsung and underappreciated musicians in British jazz. Since 1989 he has worked tirelessly promoting his SLAM imprint and in doing so given musician's around the world the opportunity to release their music to a wider audience than would have otherwise been possible, and in the interim it is perhaps easy to forget that Haslam is a formidable player in his own
right.

I first heard George with his quartet 'The Siger Band' that he led in the early eighties, who recorded a couple of excellent LPs for Tony Williams' Spotlite label which are have sadly not reappeared on CD. Since then Haslam has performed throughout the world with musicians of all persuasions looking for that all elusive 'musical connection', and frequently finding it in the most unusual places.

One such occasion was the Raahen Rantajatsit (Jazz On The Beach) Festival in Finland, and captures the meeting Haslam and Paul Rutherford with the Samuli Mikkonen Trio. The music is finally making an appearance some 14 years after being recorded, but rather than lamenting the fact that is has remained in the vaults for so long, we should be grateful for it appearing at all.

Performed as one continuous improvisation, '53 Minutes' is exactly that, although the CD is cleverly broken down with 15 separate markers that Haslam has inserted at certain points in the performance where the music changes, although as the saxophonist says in his liner notes the music benefits from, and indeed only makes sense when listened to as a whole.

The performance is impressive, and listened to carefully depicts quite graphically the events on stage that night when five musicians meet and play together for the first time. From the opening segment where the trio introduce themselves, to the point where the guests enter the conversation and pleasantries are exchanged. As the improvisation progresses it is heard how everyone starts to feel more comfortable and relaxed and the music moves up a gear. Mikkonen's Trio if rooted in more straight ahead playing situations react and interact with Rutherford and Haslam with ideas and conversation become more detailed and in depth.

There is much common ground to be discovered, and with trombonist Paul Rutherford perhaps playing in a more abstract manor that his colleagues his knowledge and use of the blues ensure that all have a handle on proceedings, and that is perhaps where George Haslam's baritone is wielded to best effect, acting as a commentator and mediator and helping to keep dialogue flowing with his gruff lines that float between abstraction and a more structured form that prevents dialects from clashing.

By the concluding segment of the disc we have been taken on a musical conversation that embraces cultural and musical differences, bring all together in an extended piece that, like a meeting between old and new friends, has humour, depth and warmth in abundance. Paul Rutherford is greatly missed, and it is great to hear him once again on this excellent release.

Reviewed by Nick Lea http://jazzviewscdreviews.weebly.com/

 

30/11/2012 Daniel Sorrells

A rumbling of piano chords delivers Raahe ’99, a recently unearthed meeting between British heavyweights Paul Rutherford and George Haslam and Finland’s Samuli Mikkonen Trio, a concert that might forever have existed only as a flickering memory of those who attended the Raahen Rantajatsit festival in July of 1999. This month marks five years since Rutherford’s passing, and it’s hard to imagine a posthumous offering that’s more vital, more present, than Rutherford’s music. He is among those who have unlocked immortality.

Raahe’s beyond one man, though, however decorated. It’s a writhing, twisting worm of a performance, a collective contortion that certainly moves as though it’s a single creature. Separated into 15 tracks (with some bizarrely descriptive titles like “Bass prominent, taragato subsides, quintet re-assembles with a nod towards swing before the final coda”), the album unwinds as an unbroken 53-minute thread, an almost thematic program of improvisation that morphs from movement to movement as its elements fluctuate and rearrange. Despite its freely improvised nature, this is a thread pulled from the fabric of the jazz idiom, and rather than manifesting as out-and-out free jazz ruckus, the music’s changing directions unfold in a linear, logical manner as players enter and exit, their ears tuned as much toward melody as they are to dynamism and turmoil.

Haslam’s baritone sax and Rutherford’s trombone make for an imposing frontline. Mikkonen and his crew are an equal match. Mikkonen can play out, but he’s not a very abstract player, and he’s never far removed from a melancholy sort of jazz lyricism. He’s just as inclined to take the lead has he is to slip into the rhythmic framework, the true strength of the Finnish trio. There are times when drummer Mika Kallio tosses in some incredible syncopated beats, or bassist Uffe Krokfors locks into a hypnotic motif, and you can feel the whole group tighten in a driving, exciting way that serves to remind that a well-stated rhythm is hardly the bane of “free” improvisation.

Raahe ‘99 is a completely satisfying piece of music, and a damn lucky find. It’s painful to think that a great capture like this might have been lost for good, spirited away along with one of its creators. Mr. Rutherford is greatly missed, but lives on in a most profound way through performances with peers like those on Raahe, searching musicians who bring out the best in each other.
By Daniel Sorrells http://freejazz-stef.blogspot.com.ar/2012/08/paul-rutherford-george-haslam-with.html

 

28/10/2012 Massimo Ricci

Nice idea, retrieving this 1999 concert extrapolated from a 2-day event in Raahe, a small town situated in Finland's Gulf of Bothnia. The forward tandem of Rutherford (trombone) and Haslam (baritone sax, tarogato) is supported, complemented and only mildly contrasted by pianist Mikkonen, bassist Ulf Krokfors and drummer Mika Kallio (curiously, a namesake of a rather known Finnish bike rider). For starters, the recording quality is outstanding, a feature that allows the listener to discern and enjoy the various instrumental behaviors over the interplay's general streaming. This approach to the act of listening to jazz should never be overlooked: the opportunity to maintain a focus on the separate sources while being affected by the music's tensions, releases and even contradictions lies at the basis of a better action — in our individual systems — of a series of implicit connections defining the reaction to any given record.
The communication between the participants is somewhat relaxed, definitely not burning with fury. Unsurprisingly, Rutherford and Haslam appear to be in charge of the situation. The former's garrulous flights of imagination, incisive forthrightness and unmistakably superior timbre remind us of what a knowledgeable soloist he was; the latter's near-improbable blend of melodic peacefulness and stimulating swiftness defines perhaps the album's salient moments, during which this writer forgot about the "what" and started taking into account the mere upshot of the interconnecting phrases, abandoning his chair to walk around the room in a semi-comfortable frame of mind. The three-headed counterpart is brilliantly restrained and supportive of the masters through the full set. Mikkonen's pianism reveals a good degree of insightfulness while remaining more or less confined inside the dominion of "unobtrusive shading versus clever counterpoint". Krokfors and Kallio sail across linear designs and perturbed currents with considerable discretion and refinement, ultimately constituting a firm ground for the entire sonic edifice to expand.
Massimo Ricci http://www.squidsear.com/cgi-bin/news/newsView.cgi?newsID=1483

 

01/08/2012 John Sharpe

UNEARTHED GEM
The English pairing of trombonist Paul Rutherford
and baritone saxophonist George Haslam would
undoubtedly have struggled to make themselves
understood in the fiendishly intractable Finnish
tongue. But such is the universal language of jazz
that they had no problems communicating with
pianist Samuli Mikkonen’s trio with bassist Ulf
Krokfors and drummer Mika Kallio on their first
meeting at the Raahen Rantajatsit Festival in Finland
in 1999. Rutherford died five years ago this month,
making this tribute recording a welcome find. While
the trombonist may be best known for his staggering
solo records, he also contributed positively to any
number of free and structured situations. This
53-minute freely extemporized set with its freebop
approach neatly encapsulates both styles.
Rutherford mixes hums, gurgles and buzzes
with brassy rumbustiousness, demonstrating a
fantastic and unpredictable range of expression.
Even when at his most broodily lyrical, he undercuts
it by interspersing some frog-like croaks. Haslam
makes impassioned baritone statements, but also
cuts an alternately angular and droning line on
tarogato. Mikkonen’s hammered tremolos ratchet
up the intensity and he proves himself a probing
accompanist, his jabbing motifs serving to jostle and
realign the collective trajectory. Neither drums nor
bass solo but provide solid propulsion and apposite,
although slightly over amplified, coloration.
The quintet settled upon a democratic ethos,
which sees the lead switching imperceptibly around
the group. In the liners, Haslam helpfully demarcates
the continuous performance into 15 tracks, which
helps signpost some of the more potent passages,
such as a warm and honeyed duet between the
horns and a wonderful trombone solo supported by
Mikkonen’s knotty comping. While the rhythm
section sound most comfortable with a definite
pulse, some of the strongest sections come when
there is tension between different rates of pulsation,
as when Mikkonen posits measured choppy chords
against fidgety uptempo drums. Borne of shared
experience, the two horns’ bravura interactions are
one of the assets of this performance.
John Sharpe
THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD | August 2012

 

10/07/2012 Chris Searle

Scandinavian bootlegs
Secret recordings made on a Finnish beach have resurfaced

Two British jazz prophets better known in Finland than in their own country?

Unheralded and largely unknown beyond their free improv admirers, George Haslam, Preston-born baritone saxophonist and introducer and master of the Hungarian tarogato horn into jazz, and Greenwich-born trombonist Paul Rutherford have both created canons of enormous stature and originality.

Rutherford was introduced to the saxophone by his elder brother, switched to trombone and learned his craft during his two years of national service in the RAF where he met fellow jazz free spirits John Stevens and Trevor Watts.

He performed and recorded free music from the off and spent a musical lifetime at his slides in uniquely avant garde contexts, becoming one of the genuine jazz greats of its century of history.

Haslam has been excelling in free jazz settings since the '60 s but without similar opportunities to record until the '80s, when he set up his own SLAM label and cut some powerful albums, in particular a pair of duo sessions with the US pianist Mal Waldron.

Rutherford and Haslam both travelled restlessly to find appreciative listeners and companions, Rutherford throughout Europe and the US, Haslam much further afield, particularly in Latin America.

He performed in Mexico, led the first British jazz ensemble to play in Cuba and established a musical base in Argentina, recording with some powerful local musicians including the compelling 2006 album September Spring.

Long before Rutherford died in 2007, the two veterans had established a formidable horn partnership and had shared notes on several SLAM albums.

Rutherford became renowned as a solo trombonist - his solo album for the Emanem label 'The Gentle Harm of the Bourgeoisie' is a free jazz classic unlikely to ever be equalled.

But he and Haslam were kindred spirits and mutual forces of inspiration, as evinced by the duo album '1989 and All That' recorded at the Holywell Room in Oxford, a venue of near-perfect jazz acoustics which brought out the musical uniqueness of both artistes in a larger group format.

The album 'Raahe 99' is a memorial to Rutherford, recorded in July 1999 in Finland at a "jazz on the beach" festival. Rutherford and Haslam had no idea that the performance had been recorded, and its 53 minutes only emerged some 12 years after the event.

Rutherford had not met pianist Samuli Mikkonon, bassist Ulf Krokfors and drummer Mika Kallio before the concert, so it was an event of sheet spontaneity.

Mikkonen's ominously beautiful phrases which commence the first movement with Kallio's deep drum-struck sounds certainly do not presage a beach party.

When the horns enter there are sensations of any angry, vituperative sea followed by a harrowing baritone chorus with the trio's empathy of strangers transforming to a union of fresh companions.

After a horn interchange there is the genius of Rutherford's London slides and multiphonics, as if a complete voice box has slipped down inside his instrument.

Nobody in jazz ever played a trombone like Rutherford. The Finns were hearing it here on their blessed beach, and when Haslam's deep baritone returns it is as if he is responding not to a summons but an oratory.

The second movement opens with Krokfor's emphatic bass and Mikkonen's assured and splashing surf-like solo, more horn sparring and an astonishing passage of Rutherford wit, artistry and glory which makes you marvel how far the trombone has travelled since those early 20th century Crescent City days, when the tailgate slidemen played their trombones from the backs of parading wagons.

It leads into a sequence of profound baritone beauty, where Haslam's sound recalls the Ellingtonian wonders of baritonist Harry Carney's rhapsodic recorded performance of 1947, Sono.

In the third movement Haslam's terse and worrisome taragato enters, and Rutherford's trombone howls beside it as if two aging British griots are marking something about the millennium to come on that Finland beach below the almost Arctic sky - another uncanny leap for a music which has its provenances where the Mississippi delta pours out into the Caribbean Sea.

Yet with such a fusion of sound and intention all sounds of history and the present harmonise.

What is remarkable about this record is that not a note is superfluous or egotistic - five men meet on a faraway beach, make wondrous music and cease, not knowing that their sounds are being captured, then they travel on and make more.

Then one of them dies and is brilliantly remembered forever alongside his companions.

Such is jazz, such is life.

Chris Searle

 

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