How Long Is Now? Iiro Rantala with Lars Danielsson & Peter Erskine
Label: ACT Music
Subgenre: Modern Jazz
Composer: Kenny Barron, Iiro Rantala, Lars Danielsson, Jimi Hendrix, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Peter Erskine
Album including Album cover Booklet (PDF)
- 2How Long Is Now04:02
- 4Taksim by Night04:54
- 5Little Wing04:56
- 9Each Breath03:26
- 10A Nut04:00
Info for How Long Is Now?
This new trio album with Peter Erskine (drums) and Lars Danielsson (bass) constitutes a many-faceted summing-up of a happy and resoundingly creative phase of Rantala’s life.
"Avoid the basic concept of the jazz piano trio and make it more groovy, with simple melodies” Iiro Rantala
After the album “My Working Class Hero,” dedicated to John Lennon and “Tears for Esbjörn,” a homage to the influential Swedish pianist, “How Long Is Now?” puts the spotlight fairly and squarely back on to the Finnish pianist, composer and life-force Iiro Rantala. This new trio album with Peter Erskine (drums) and Lars Danielsson (bass) constitutes a many-faceted summing-up of a happy and resoundingly creative phase of Rantala’s life.
Rantala says of the new album: “I think this is one of those ‘composition is the king’ kind of projects. The theme, the writing, the mood of the composition are the most important things.” Seven of the thirteen compositions here are by Rantala himself, three tracks by the other players in the trio, and three more are by others who, in their different ways, have helped to construct Rantala’s appealing musical personality.
Rantala has described clearly what he wants to do as a composer: to write “simple melodies that people can remember,” and there are several fine examples with catchy hooks on this album. For example, Rantala has set out to capture the contrasting personalities of each of his two young sons, and convey the evident delight they both bring their father. Rantala describes them: “Bruno likes simple things in life. Sleeping and eating. So the tune is simple. Only 3 chords: G, am7 and D7.” And what about his brother Topi? “Topi is more bossy, there is more edge and drama with him. So, the tune is in the minor and has some more of a feeling of danger.” Perhaps that danger might be found in rock arenas, because “Topi” has inspired a riotously flamboyant Little Richard-style piano solo from Rantala, and Danielsson plays an arco solo which sounds uncannily like a wailing rock guitar. There is also joy in lively, buoyant tunes such as “A Nut” and “Snapchat.”
The guest composers on the album are certainly an eclectic bunch: Jimi Hendrix, Kenny Barron and Johann Sebastian Bach. Hendrix’s “Little Wing” is a reminder that Rantala has very strong roots well outside the jazz tradition. When he is asked to name his musical influences, the first name Rantala comes up with (before those of Egberto Gismonti, Keith Jarrett and Michel Petrucciani), is Richard Tee, a presence on a vast quantity of R&B records from the 1970s onwards, and a seminal 'pop' piano influence through his gospel background. And what inspires Rantala’s take on Kenny Barron’s ‘Voyage?’ “It’s a mixture of Finnish Tango and...well...Voyage,” he says. And Bach, the “Kyrie” from the B minor mass? For Rantala this tune is a memory of a formative childhood moment: “I started my life in music singing Bach at age of seven in a boys choir.”
Rantala’s compositional horizons are mostly what defines “How Long Is Now?”, but he also has a conscious intention to take a jazz trio in a specific direction: “The basic concept,” he says, “is to avoid the basic concept of the jazz piano trio and to make it more groovy, with simple melodies.”
For “How Long Is Now?” Rantala extended the invitation to one of the great drummers of our time, Peter Erskine. Rantala was thrilled to have the opportunity in June 2015 to do just two concerts and this recording with Peter Erskine: "I love Peter Erskine's playing," he enthuses. "I grew up listening to him. Steps Ahead, Weather Report and particularly Word of Mouth." The collaboration and the juxtaposition of Rantala and Erskine are fascinating to witness, particularly with the astonishing close-up clarity and sound quality that engineer Adrian von Ripka has achieved in the Bauer Studio in Ludwigsburg. Rantala is a far more rhythmically assertive player than the pianists with whom Erskine has had the strongest associations in the past, such as Alan Pasqua and the late John Taylor.
Perhaps the best example the Erskine’s genius in this context is “A Nut,” where he responds to Rantala’s up-front challenges with a seemingly inexhaustible creative well-spring of rhythmic and tonal variety. The results are dazzling. Perhaps the best tribute that can be paid to Erskine’s playing right through the album is to quote Erskine himself describing what he always admired in Elvin Jones: "pure emotional expression and velocity, and being in tune or somehow plugged into a higher awareness of things."
The bassist of the trio is another consummate musician, Lars Danielsson, whose playing is consistently both subtle and authoritative. He has brought two compositions to the record. “Choral” is a short evocation of a winter morning. “Taksim By Night” presents a confluence of Eastern music and European classical tradition that Danielsson encountered personally when playing in the square in Istanbul, and which left an indelible impression.
A feature present throughout the album – and which was apparently much in evidence at the sessions too - is Iiro Rantala’s winning sense of humour. He recently told an interviewer on video: “We Scandinavians like minor and sadness... and pessimism and darkness.” But as he spoke all of those words, he never allowed a characteristically mischievous and ironic smile to slip from his face, even for a moment. In “How Long Is Now?” Rantala, Erskine and Danielsson have produced a thoroughly life-affirming album.
Iiro Rantala, piano Lars Danielsson, bass Peter Erskine, drums, percussion
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Adrian von Ripka at Bauer Studio, Ludwigsburg June 10 & 11, 2015
is a pianistic sensation who makes the strongest case I know to believe in reincarnation because his pianistic technique and musical sensitivity speak of depths which appear impossible to have been achieved in this lifetime alone....' - Gil Goldstein, pianist and arranger, NY.
After touring the world for 18 years with Trio Töykeät, Finnish piano virtuoso Iiro Rantala is refreshingly still at the forefront of international pianism. The energetic keyboard lion crosses musical genres with style, ease and excitement, playing at his exhilarating and adventurous best. Definitely entertaining, zany, unconventional and occasionally wicked, but always uncompromising.
Iiro Rantala is among the most internationally visible Finnish musicians, and is second to none when it comes to unsurpassable keyboard technique and flaring showmanship. The pianist first became infected by music in the Finnish children's choir Cantores Minores at the age of seven, and not long afterwards was taking piano lessons. Iiro’s piano studies took him to the Oulunkylä Pop/Jazz Institute, and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and also included studying piano at the Manhattan School of Music in New York for two years in the early 1990s. Rantala is best known as the founder and pianist of Trio Töykeät, Finland's most famous and longest running jazz group (until 2006), which became one of the biggest success stories in Finnish jazz, and gave over 2.000 concerts in 40 countries since 1988, and released eight albums. The pianist has been the winner of all major jazz awards in Finland during his more than 20 year career.
Exploring the boundaries between musical genres is a strong characteristic of Rantala’s artistic personality. He appears in Finland with symphony orchestras, performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Mozart’s No.23 piano concerto, and his own Concerto in G#majAs, first premiered in 2003 with the Tapiola Sinfonietta. Rantala’s creative diversity has also seen him intensively engaged with music for children’s theatre, as well as performing with cross-over classical musicians, including the Finnish vocal group Rajaton, and recently as a tango duo with world renowned virtuoso violinist Pekka Kuusisto.
Iiro Rantala has hosted his own music talk show on the Finnish national broadcaster YLE, started 2006 and continious today.
Since 2010 Iiro Rantala has focused on the development of his solo piano career. His ACT debut “Lost Heroes” is his first solo recording and a very personal homage to outstanding musicians in history like Jean Sibelius, Esbjörn Svensson, Oscar Peterson, Jaco Pastorius and Luciano Pavarotti.