The second album from Iro Haarla’s Finnish-Norwegian quintet carries forward the work begun on the composer-pianist-harpist’s “Northbound” album, which helped to focus overdue attention on Haarla’s music in its own right as well as on her role as a shaping force in progressive jazz. “Vespers”, likewise, extends a tradition of music - and a scope of feeling - that Iro helped establish in the Far North in her years as arranger/orchestrator for Edward Vesala’s bands and for his influential ECM recordings, including “Lumi”, “Ode To The Death Of Jazz”, “Invisible Storm” and “Nordic Gallery”.
Haarla’s group includes powerful bassist Uffe Krokfors, himself a former member of Vesala’s Sound & Fury ensemble, who has partnered with Iro in most of her musical activities of the last decade. The quintet line-up was assembled in 2004 with help from producer Manfred Eicher, and with saxophonist Trygve Seim an important contributor from the outset.
Seim, who played briefly with Edward Vesala at the end of the 1990s, has often remarked upon the influence of Vesala-Haarla on his own writing. “Vespers” features another very unique drummer, Jon Christensen, one of the innovators. He brings to Iro Haarla’s music his own special sense of dynamics, sensitivity and unpredictability.
Now a rising star on the international jazz scene, Mathias Eick counts his experiences with Haarla as crucial for his development. “I really grew in working with Iro Haarla,” he told the International Trumpet Guild Journal in 2008. “It was fantastic to work with her. I got my first chance to work extensively in a slow, rubato style. [Iro’s songs] demand a lot of you because you have to communicate effectively with other musicians which is really hard in music like this. It’s quite difficult music, but a rewarding experience.”