Alexi Tuomarila - the most exciting new talent of 2005

I thought I was quite clever 'discovering' Alexi Tuomarila until I read the sleeve notes of his second CD, 02, and found that none other than Brad Mehldau had written the introduction. (Although if I was brutally honest I'd have to admit that the fact that both artists record for Warner owned labels may just have a bearing on Mehldau's eulogy).

But enough of corporate machinations, Alexi Tuomarila is the most exciting new musician I heard in 2005. The young Finnish pianist had a pretty impressive musical education, studying classical piano at Espoo Music Institute before taking a Masters in music at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels. When he graduated in 1999 he followed the jazz path and formed his Quartet, and he has been making quite a name for himself and winning a lot of accolades and awards ever since.

They are justified, and if you want to experience his fresh and exciting jazz there is no better starting point than his new CD 02. The style is contemporary, but it is not so free that it loses the mainstream listener. But this is young jazz, and it is driven by Tuomarila's strong feel for rhythm. His improvisations remind me of Keith Jarrett without the self-indulgence, and his classical roots give him a subtlety far beyond his years, with shades of Bill Evans and even Steve Reich in his piano patterns, and yes, there are also flavours of his publicist Brad Mehldau as well.

There are quite a few exciting young jazz players around that can drive their music forward, there are others that can improvise, and there are quite a few great melodists. But I haven't come across any others in 2005 who combine all these in the way that Alexi Tuomarila does. And, oh yes, my wife tells me he is pretty damn good looking as well.

02 is released by Warner Finland, and it is not the easiest album to get hold. But, like all good things, it is worth persevering for.
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