Iro Haarla – Ante Lucem (2016) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/48kHz]

Iro Haarla – Ante Lucem for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Quintet (2016)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz  | Time – 01:06:40 minutes | 682 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Booklet, Front Cover | © ECM Records
Recorded: October 2012 at the Concert Hall of NorrlandsOperan, Umeå, Sweden

Ante Lucem, a powerful suite for jazz quintet and symphony orchestra by Finnish pianist/harpist/composer Iro Haarla, was premiered at the Umeå Jazz Festival in October 2012. It was recorded at the Concert Hall of NorrlandsOperan in Umeå, and the album is drawn both from the premiere concert and from sessions on the following days. Ante Lucem is comprised of four separate yet closely linked pieces which reflect in different ways, the composer says, upon the “struggle between darkness and light.” In a review of the premiere for All about Jazz, John Kelman observed that “Haarla’s writing moved from maelstrom-like turbulence to deeper melancholy … Whether it was more dramatic turns with the full orchestra or breakdowns into smaller subsets, it was an evocative and provocative performance.”

Finnish pianist/harpist/composer Iro Haarla devoted the early part of her career to the music of her then-husband, the late drummer/composer Edward Vesala. On her own she has released two quintet albums on ECM: Northbound (2005) and Vespers (2010). That quintet (with a couple of personnel substitutions) is integrated into an extended composition with symphony orchestra on Ante Lucem. Trumpeter Hayden Powell (in place of Mathias Eick) and saxophonist Trygve Seim are on the front line, joined by double bassist Ulf Krokfors, drummer Mika Kallio (in place of Jon Christensen) and the leader on piano and harp.
“Integrated” is definitely the word. The piece consists of four separate, but linked pieces, the jazz players part of the musical flow with the orchestra. While the quintet is featured, it does not alternate passages with the orchestra as is common in jazz + orchestra projects. This is not a “Concerto for Jazz Quintet and Symphony Orchestra.” The opening “Songbird Chapel”is dedicated to Haarla’s mother, who was an opera singer. The composer sets the tone with her harp, followed by a haunting melody for saxophone and trumpet which is taken up by the strings. Seim’s lyrical saxophone solo marks the first major improvisational contribution from the quintet.
“Persevering With Winter” is about the long winter season in the North, the time of hibernation and a long period of darkness. It opens with ominous orchestral texture, finally broken by Haarla’s piano. The rest of the band joins in with melodic material, and the string accompaniment expands to include the full orchestra—finally exploding into a theme which recurs at the close of the piece, a thrilling moment. Seim contributes a lovely obligato solo over the repeat. …”and the Darkness has not overcome it…” continues the winter theme, the light overcoming the darkness and making the cold disappear. Seim’s plaintive solo saxophone opens, joined by Powell’s trumpet, then piano and strings. Powell takes center stage (joined by brass and strings) before giving way to a bass solo from Krokfors, then more trumpet with rhythm section—one of the most extended quintet passages in the piece so far. It all finally builds to a triumphant conclusion with quintet and orchestra.
“Ante Lucem -Before Dawn…” brings the set to a close with a piece that the composer says “describes the Passion. It begins on Holy Thursday in the garden of Gethsemane. The piece ends on Easter Monday with the resurrection.” But there are no direct references to religious or liturgical music. The movement can be heard just as convincingly as a trip from darkness to light, the struggle that forms the theme for the entire album. Seim’s saxophone again takes the lead as a voice calling out in the darkness, and the quintet plays a roiling segment of what sounds like free improvisation depicting a violent scene, made even more intense by orchestral interjections. The final orchestral section is both calm and triumphant, befitting the subject.
Ante Lucem is a moving experience, rich and majestic. It will surely reward multiple listenings. The piece was commissioned by the Norrlands Opera Symphony Orchestra and its leader Marco Feklistoff and premiered at the Umeå Jazz Festival in October 2012. This album was recorded in the same concert hall (the Concert Hall of NorrlandsOperan) on the following day. -Mark Sullivan, All About Jazz

1. Songbird Chapel 14:55
2. Persevering with Winter 19:26
3. …And the Darkness Have Not Overcome It… 15:51
4. Ante Lucem – Before Dawn… 16:28

Iro Haarla – Piano, Harp
Hayden Powell – Trumpet
Trygve Seim – Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone
Ulf Krokfors – Double Bass
Mika Kallio – Drums, Percussion
Norrlands Operans Symfoniorkester
Jukka Iisakkila – Conductor