Strings Revisited

“Evolution Vamp”


A landmark 1976 recording, Juhani Aaltonen and Henrik Otto Donner’s Strings, married jazz improvisation with orchestration. While the Finnish musicians were following in the footsteps of artists such as Charlie Parker and Cannonball Addreley, Aaltonen and Otto Donner’s concept utilized the strings as equal partners with Aaltonen’s tenor saxophone, helping to establish mood and atmosphere rather then merely sweeten the session. The pair re-examined and updated the work decades later with the release of 2003’s Strings Revisited (TUM), on which they re-recorded three of the songs from the original album and issued three new pieces by Otto Donner, who had composed and arranged the music on the original, as well. For the redux, creative jazz veterans Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille, on bass and drums respectively, joined Aaltonen in Helsinki, rehearsing and performing concerts with the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra — conducted by and Otto Donner — and then entering the studio and laying down the tracks that comprise the album, all of which are first or second takes. “Evolution Vamp,” one of the new compositions, kicks off the recording, opening with Workman’s doomy bass lines and Aaltonen’s pensive and breathy tenor. The strings make a dramatic entrance, the effect of which heightens the tension and adds to the cinematic quality of the performance, a sort of melding of smoky film noir soundtrack and Bernard Herrmann Hitchcock score. Workman’s plangent pizzicato and Cyrille’s expert shading on snare and cymbals further contribute to the track’s interiority, all of which is deeply unsettling in the best possible way.

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The Authoritative Voice in Jazz