Edward Vesala: Satu (ECM 1088)

 

Edward Vesala
Satu

Edward Vesala drums
Tomasz Stanko trumpet
Palle Mikkelborg trumpet
Juhani Aaltonen saxophone
Tomasz Szukalski saxophone
Knut Riisnaes saxophone
Rolf Malm bass clarinet
Torbjørn Sunde trombone
Terje Rypdal guitar
Palle Danielsson double-bass
Recorded October 1976 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Edward Vesala is one of those rare treasures whose every recorded move seems to ooze with profundity. Flanked by an all-star cast of mostly Scandinavian talent, he and his collective visions have produced some of the most inestimable highpoints of the ECM discography. On Satu, it’s as if he has stumbled into an old radio program, the signal of which has only now reached us. As in a community of mystics squinting into the morning sun, it brightens with the golden light of selfless realization. The thrumming bass of Palle Danielsson vibrates like an inner voice in the title cut, an earthen call to wordless action. Terje Rypdal cries into shape, carried along nocturnal routes into even darker destinations. Tomasz Stanko winds the band with his trumpet into a tight spring before loosing into unsuspecting ether. A droning call from Rolf Malm on bass clarinet grinds the edges of our expectations down to rounded barbs. The brass of “Ballade For San” threads through its vamp like a choir coloring in the constellations with nostalgia. Ecstatic interplay between Rypdal and his periphery pulls us into the album’s longest dives. “Star Flight” glows with more of Rypdal’s singing guitar, and with a screeching solo from Stanko, recorded as if in another time or place. Meanwhile, horns and drums reach an agreement, as guitar and trumpet continue their assault, unifying as the emergent voice of chaos and reason (here, one and the same). The ponderous “Komba” cradles a mind-altering soprano sax solo. It wails like a mourner in ecstasy and circulates through the bloodstream long after it fades. Vesala ends positively with “Together.” A lovely flute solo undresses before a blind observer, allowing synthetic thoughts from bass to plunk their way into the frame. And as Vesala dances circles around it, the flute gilds its edges with every color of the rainbow until only a white sheen is left.

While certainly more “accessible” than Vesala’s fine Nan Madol, this effort is no less enigmatic for all its inner details, each of which seems to compress a profound wealth of déjà vu into a single expulsion of breath, a tapping of cymbals, the grating flange of a guitar. Vesala’s music is an extension of a force unseen, but ever felt in the vast aptitude of its effects. While very much uprooted from discernible foundations, it is peppered with delicate obbligati that give us purchaase. These thematic statements take on a totemic quality in Vesala’s context, for his is an atmosphere that is supremely internal, throwing off the shackles of social order and plumbing the depths of an uncompromising will to power. Vesala’s music feels as if it has broken through a dimensional barrier to make itself known to us, and all we need to do to make the return flight is grab on and never let go.

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