Label: We Jazz Finland.
Although Finish free jazz trio Black Motor were formed just over thirteen years ago, in January 2005, this exiting and innovative band is still one music’s best kept secrets. That is despite releasing nine albums, including Branches which was recently released by We Jazz Finland. It marks the debut of saxophonist Tane Kannisto who previously was a member of Sound and Fury, and joins the established rhythm section of bassist Ville Rauhala and drummer Simo Laihonen. This new lineup of Black Motor is responsible for Branches melodic and innovative album of free jazz full of energy. It’s the latest chapter in the Black Motor story.
It was back in January 2005 that saxophonist Sami Sipple, bassist Ville Rauhala and drummer Simo Laiho founded the Black Motor. By then, they were all experienced musicians who were familiar faces on the Finnish jazz scene. They also shared the same taste in music, especially the soulful free jazz of Albert Ayler and John Coltrane, the Finnish avant-garde drummer Edward Vesala and German saxophonist and clarinetist Peter Brötzmann. These musicians influenced and inspired the members of Black Motor, who soon, made its first tentative steps on the vibrant Finnish jazz scene.
Soon, though, people were sitting up and taking notice of Black Motor, as they hit the ground running in a series of unforgettable shows. It didn’t take long for critics to start taking notice of Black Motor.
By 2007, Black Motor had released already their eponymous debut album, and later that year returned with their much-anticipated sophomore album On Duty. Both albums featured a group that sour as if they had been together much longer than two years, and were a tantalising taste of Black Motor’s potential.
When Black Motor released Club El Toro and Vaarat Vastukset in 2008, they had matured they were starting to fulfil the potential that critics had spotted on their first two albums. However, it wasn’t just the critics that were won over by Black Motor’s two new albums.
Already Finnish music fans were flocking to Black Motor’s live shows, and they were becoming a popular live draw. Soon, when Black Motor played live they were joined onstage by various guest artists. This included guitarist Jukka Orma and woodwind virtuoso Jorma Tapio. By then, Black Motor was no longer an underground band and as their popularity grew, and their music began to find a wider audience.
One way that Black Motor did this, was when they toured Finland, they decided to arrange workshops and regularly played in front of a younger audience. This ranged from schoolchildren at elementary grade schools to students attending music colleges. For many of those who saw Black Motor play, their music was very different to what they heard at home or on the radio.
The music Black Motor played was also very different to the hard bop and soul jazz that many bands within the Finnish jazz scene used as a foundation for the sound. Instead, Black Motor continued to play their unique, innovative and energetic brand of melodic free jazz as their popularity continued to grow.
By 2010, Black Motor had just released their fifth album Never Out Of Fashion-Live in Amsterdam and the band was no longer just gigging in their native Finland. Instead, they were playing abroad where their music was growing in popularity.
Following Never Out Of Fashion-Live in Amsterdam, Black Motor’s star was in the ascendancy and their music was regarded as a breath of fresh air. By then, many people were tiring of the hard bop and soul jazz that dominated the Finnish jazz scene at that time. Black Motor’s music was different and the band even looked different. They didn’t look like jazz musicians and instead, the intrepid trio looked and acted more like a grunge band. Some critics even thought that Black Motor had a similar attitude to grunge bands. Meanwhile, Black Motor who were rising stars of the Scandinavian improv scene, continued to attract a new audience to their concerts, including many people who had never attended a jazz concert before.
As 2010 gave way to 2011, Black Motor released their sixth album Hoojaa. which featured seven of Kusti Vuorinen’s compositions. Hoojaa which was a much more focused album, was released to widespread critical acclaim, and it was no surprise when the album was shortlisted for the annual Jazz-Emma, which is the Finnish equivalent of the Jazz Grammy. This was showed just how far Black Motor had come since the band was formed in January 2005.
In 2012, Black Motor released their seventh Jumehniemi, which was quite different to Hoojaa, which was a more focused album. Instead, Black Motor’s playing on Jumehniemi was looser on what was a meandering album where the trio enjoyed another opportunity to improvise and innovate. Jumehniemi won over critics and before long, Black Motor was releasing another album.
Just a few months after the release in Jumehniemi early 2012, Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola and Black Motor released the album they had been collaborating on Rubidium. It was a very different album to Hoojaa and was a more concentrated set that was released praise and plaudits. By then, Black Motor was a favourite of Finnish critics who continued to fly the flag for the trio.
Having released two albums in early 2012, Black Motor spent much of the summer touring, and were sometimes joined on the stage by guest artists. This included pianist and harpist Iro Haarla, guitarist Raoul Björkenheim and saxophonist and clarinettist Jone Takamäki. However, at one concert in Club Telakka in Black Motor’s hometown of Tampere, they were joined onstage by one of their heroes, and someone who had influenced and inspired the trio, Peter Brötzmann. This was a huge thrill, and was without doubt one of the highlights of the summer of 2012 for Black Motor.
Later in 2012, Black Motor were joined by two celebrated saxophonists Juhani Aaltonen and later, Mikko Innanen when they played live. Then in November 2012 Black Motor starred at the Tampere Jazz Happening in November 2012, and as the year drew to a close Black Motor they were invited to play at the prestigious London Jazz Festival.
By May 2013, Black Motor returned with their eighth album, Yöstä Aamun Kynnykselle which was meditative, ruminative and poignant album of beautiful ballads. This showed a very different side to Black Motor who headed out to tour their latest album. It was a triumphant tour, with Black Motor receiving standing ovations nights after night, including when they played at the annual Winter Jazz event in New York City in January 2014.
When Black Motor returned home, they soon were soon collaborating again with Verneri Pohjola. This time, they recorded an album of Edward Vesala’s compositions which has yet to be released. However, in the spring of 2014, Black Motor’s sixth album Jumehniemi which was released in 2012, was belatedly released on CD. To celebrate Black Motor played a series of shows where they were joined by a number of guest artists. This included jazz pianist Seppo Kantonen and progressive rock guitarist Pekka Rechardt of Wigwam. They helped Black Motor celebrate one of their finest album Jumehniemi.
Towards the end of 2014, the members of Black Motor began to think about how they should celebrate their tenth anniversary. When these plans began, bassist Ville Rauhala and drummer Simo Laiho had no idea know that saxophonist Sami Sippola was about to drop a bombshell. In late 2014, Sami Sippola announced that he was Black Motor for personal reasons. After nine years together, the original lineup of Black Motor was no more.
Soon, the search for Sami Sippola’s replacement began. However, it didn’t take long for Ville Rauhala and Simo Laiho to choose forty-one year old Tane Kannisto who played saxophone and flute. He joined Black Motor in time to help the trio celebrate their tenth anniversary.
Having helped Black Motor celebrate their tenth anniversary, the time came for Tane Kannisto to make his recording debut with his new band. They would record two albums in a relatively short space of time. The first was a spilt album that featured another band from Tampere, Rakka.
Rakka featured on the first side of the album, while the new lineup of Black Motor featured on the second side. Black Motor’s rhythm section of bassist Ville Rauhala and drummer Simo Laiho was joined by saxophonist Tane Kannisto. The eponymous split album was released on the ’15th’ of April 2017 and marked the debut of saxophonist Tane Kannisto. However, just six weeks later, Black Motor returned with Branches which was their ninth album, and the first in nearly five years.
On the ‘2nd’ of June 2017, Black Motor released Branches in their native Finland on vinyl and cassette. It wasn’t until the spring of 2018, when Black Motor released Branches on CD and the album was available to buy across Europe.
Branches features seven tracks, including five penned by Black Motor bassist Ville Rauhala. He wrote But Not Willingly, At The Red End Of The World, Decision Jump, Tulee Päivä and Longer The Distance, Sweeter The Sound. The new lineup of Black Motor wrote Branches (Citizen Music), and cover Fred Rose’s Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain. These seven tracks would eventually become Branches.
Recording of Branches took place at Studio JJ in Tampere, 2016 at Studio JJ in Tampere. Black Motor’s rhythm section of bassist Ville Rauhala and drummer and percussionist Simo Laiho was joined by Tane Kannisto who played alto, baritone and tenor saxophone and also a nagaswarm which is the world’s loudest non-brass acoustic instruments. Joining Black Motor who produced Branches, was recordist Juuso Nordlund. By the end of 2016, Black Motor had recorded their comeback album which was then mastered by Jukka Sarapää. Now Branches was ready to be released.
When Branches was released, the new lineup of Black Motor were hailed as the comeback kings as they released their first full-length album in nearly five years. That was apparent from the opening bars of But Not Willingly which gives way to At The Red End Of The World, Decision Jump and Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain. At the halfway point it’s apparent that Branches is another powerful and innovative album of melodic and free jazz from Black Motor.
The comeback Kings continue to create music that is vibrant and full of energy as the new lineup showcased their considerable skills on Branches (Citizen Music) and Tulee Päivä which was inspired by Edith Södergran’s poem Animalisk Hymn. By then, everything seems to fall into place and there’s a sense of unity throughout Branches.
This continues to be the case, including on Longer the Distance, Sweeter the Sound. That is despite saxophonist Tane Kannisto only making his Black Motor debut on Branches. However, he’s an experienced musician and just like Black Motor’s rhythm section, his playing veers between tight and fluid and sometimes, becomes inventive as he plays with freedom and power. Always, though, Black Motor’s playing is of the highest quality right up to Letting Go (Was Part of the Plan) which has a poignant sound as Tane Kannisto’s saxophone takes centre stage. His playing is slow and deliberate before the tempo gradually starts to rise on this beautiful track that ensures that Branches closes on a high.
Fittingly, it was saxophonist Tane Kannisto who plays a starring role on the album closer Letting Go (Was Part of the Plan). He replaced founder member Sami Sippola who announced his departure in late 2014. This could’ve spelt the end of Black Motor, but by recruiting another talented saxophonist, this talented and innovative free jazz trio go from strength-to-strength.
So much so, that Branches which was recently released by We Jazz Finland, is one of the finest albums of Black Motor’s career. It’s the first album that Black Motor have released in nearly five years. They’ve not lost their Midas Touch, and the addition of Tane Kannisto more than makes up for the loss of saxophonist Sami Sippola. He played his part in the rise and rise of Black Motor over the first nine years of their career. Since then, his replacement Tane Kannisto has played a part in the continued success of Finland’s top free jazz trio Black Motor, whose ninth album Branches is innovative, vibrant, melodic and full of energy and emotion.