Nice idea, retrieving this 1999 concert extrapolated from a 2-day event in Raahe, a small town situated in Finland’s Gulf of Bothnia. The forward tandem of Rutherford (trombone) and Haslam (baritone sax, tarogato) is supported, complemented and only mildly contrasted by pianist Mikkonen, bassist Ulf Krokfors and drummer Mika Kallio (curiously, a namesake of a rather known Finnish bike rider). For starters, the recording quality is outstanding, a feature that allows the listener to discern and enjoy the various instrumental behaviors over the interplay’s general streaming. This approach to the act of listening to jazz should never be overlooked: the opportunity to maintain a focus on the separate sources while being affected by the music’s tensions, releases and even contradictions lies at the basis of a better action – in our individual systems – of a series of implicit connections defining the reaction to any given record.
The communication between the participants is somewhat relaxed, definitely not burning with fury. Unsurprisingly, Rutherford and Haslam appear to be in charge of the situation. The former’s garrulous flights of imagination, incisive forthrightness and unmistakably superior timbre remind us of what a knowledgeable soloist he was; the latter’s near-improbable blend of melodic peacefulness and stimulating swiftness defines perhaps the album’s salient moments, during which this writer forgot about the “what” and started taking into account the mere upshot of the interconnecting phrases, abandoning his chair to walk around the room in a semi-comfortable frame of mind. The three-headed counterpart is brilliantly restrained and supportive of the masters through the full set. Mikkonen’s pianism reveals a good degree of insightfulness while remaining more or less confined inside the dominion of “unobtrusive shading versus clever counterpoint”. Krokfors and Kallio sail across linear designs and perturbed currents with considerable discretion and refinement, ultimately constituting a firm ground for the entire sonic edifice to expand.