Scandinavian jazz has a reputation for being cold, academic, precise and impenetrable. When famed improvisers show up in Chicago to jam with Ken Vandermark -- which is more frequently than you might think -- they seldom play charts that make you want to get out of your seat and dance. No, the European improv scene is thinking-man's music, full of perpendicular runs and flaming grooves that stop dead in their tracks.
The Five Corners Jazz Quintet aim to explode that conception. Borne of a desire to re-introduce jazz to the dancehall, this Helsinki-based group swings and shuffles like the best New York post-bop groups of the fifties and sixties, but with a modern twist. This isn't soulless electro jazz like Koop or Jazzanova, although the 5CQ certainly demonstrate a healthy respect for easily danceable music on Chasin' The Jazz Gone By.
Granted, the Quintet's complete lack of modern avant garde influences will annoy some listeners. If you enjoy thinking-man's jazz, you may be disappointed by the lack of density here -- but the fact that this thoroughly modern group is extremely listenable shouldn't dissuade purists from pointing their non-jazz-obsessed friends in its direction. From the swaggering, piano-based "Trading Eights" (which features elder statesman Erro Koivistoinen on tenor sax, trading choruses with young phenom Jukka Eskola on trumpet) to Teppo Mäkynen's fantastic percussive work and Kim Rantala's piano on the boogaloo "Straight Up", Chasin' The Jazz Gone By will definitely get you out of your seat.
"Blue Cycles" opens the album with Parisian Okou's chilly vocals, as Timo Lassy's baritone sax intones over downtempo blues. Blue Note recording artist Severi Pyysalo lends his vibes chops to charts like "This Could Be The Start Of Something" and "Unsquare Bossa" (where his melody is doubled by Lassy, this time on flute), but his improv skills are on full display in "The Devil Kicks" -- a particular must-hear if you think of The Doors' "Riders On The Storm" whenever anyone mentions vibes.
Mark Murphy guests on several tracks, including the lounge standard "This Could Be The Start Of Something", his own chart "Before We Say Goodbye" and the spoken-word original "Jamming (With Mr. Hoagland)". If the only male jazz vocalists you can name off the top of your head are Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and members of the Rat Pack, this fact alone should be enough to pique your interest in Chasin' The Jazz Gone By. Okou shows up again for "Case Study"'s seductive, straight-ahead shuffle, but the rest of the record is pure instrumental gold.
The ensemble is in tight form on "Lighthouse", which deftly combines Scandinavian melancholy with Latin rhythmic dexterity. Likewise, "Taxi Driver" closes the album with a unified vision that bespeaks either extreme familiarity among the musicians or an extreme exertion of control from artistic director Tuomas Kallio. In any case, the Five Corners Jazz Quintet demonstrates that jazz doesn't have to be obtuse to be modern, nor does it have to borrow from other genres of music to speak to a wider audience. Chasin' The Jazz Gone By is a refreshing breath in modern jazz -- and a loving look back to jazz's populist roots.