Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. Continuing in our series of articles focused upon recent releases from Finnish label We Jazz, we’re today taking a look at their live collection ‘Lonna 2019’
In the century-or-so since jazz first evolved beyond its semi-traditional roots, the style has enjoyed a certain vitality almost regardless of which of its manifold subgenres it had found itself articulated through. This can perhaps best be heard through the various experimental modes of the genre, be it the languid searching of post-bop or the rejection of form which so often comes with free and avant-garde styles. Even in its more traditional reserves, however, jazz is a form of music which lives and dies by the talents of its improvisers. Even within the context of carefully written and tautly arranged compositions, it’s the ability to act as conduit to spur-of-the-moment inspiration which sets apart the best players in the style from those who are merely sufficient. It’s of little surprise, therefore, that jazz is a style of music which works so well in the live arena. After all, many classic jazz studio albums were essentially taped live in the studio, so it stands to reason that little would be lost and much would be gained in placing that same creative dynamic in front of an audience and allowing the tape to roll. This is something Finnish indie-jazz institution We Jazz are evidently well aware of, as ‘Lonna 2019’ marks the third release in their series entitled ‘Live Plates’. As with the previous instalments, this set offers performances from three different groups on the label’s roster. There’s a charming bop workout from Antti Lötjönen Quintet East which finds them giving their own spin on Don Cherry’s Art Deco and a similarly energised yet old-timey performance from Aleksi Heinola Quintet, whose buoyant hard bop is performed so convincingly that the band would have no difficulty winning over the audience of some smoky bar in 1950s New York. Oaagaada, meanwhile, account for the whole of side two with a pair of exploratory pieces which flirt with Eastern modality. Those with a palette accustomed to the experiments of modern jazz’s most intelligent reserves will find much to appreciate here.
It’s not uncommon for live releases to display an obvious inferiority in sound quality when placed alongside comparable studio recordings, so it’s testament to We Jazz’s determination to produce and release great work that ‘Lonna 2019’ is so sonically impressive. Admittedly, this set – much like the ‘Ateneum 2019’ LP we recently reviewed here on Vinyl Corner – has a slightly boomy, bass-heavy tonality which is not quite as refined as the label’s studio-recorded output but it sounds excellent nonetheless, boasting excellent fidelity and impressive instrumental separation. The vinyl pressing itself is similarly impressive; playback is more or less faultless throughout. We picked up on barely an errant crackle across either side and the noise floor is also admirably low. The record itself – a slab of black wax slightly weightier in hand than the average release from We Jazz – is also impressive, sitting flat upon the platter during playback. While a warp-free record should ideally be a given, frustratingly it is not as common a sight as it should be – so it’s always good to see an independent label achieve something that so many major labels struggle with.
As with the recently reviewed ‘Ateneum 2019’, ‘Lonna 2019’ is a somewhat spartan package but what is offered here is as attractive as any prior We Jazz release. The cover itself is a standard-width, non-gatefold design produced from mid-weight cardstock. It isn’t unusually sturdy in hand but nor does it feel flimsy. Print quality is excellent throughout and text layout is vivid, boasting spine text which allows the album to standout on even a busy shelf, despite being of a thinner width than some modern releases.
As always with We Jazz’s output, what they offer with ‘Lonna 2019’ has been executed with real style. The groups showcased on this release each bring their own distinctive sonic ideologies to their work and the label’s vinyl pressing serves the music well.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at email@example.com – it would be great to hear from you!