The Helsinki quartet OK:KO, led by drummer/composer Okko Saastamoinen, including saxophonist Jarno Tikka, pianist Toomas Keski-Säntti, and bassist Mikael Saastamoinen, is a scene favourite in Finland. Since 2019 Matti Nives’ We Jazz Records label, has provided a platform for the band to gain substantial attention, bringing awareness to the Finnish music scene with their melodic, dynamic and original approach. The lineage of acoustic small group jazz runs through OK:KO sound, which is adventurous yet accessible.
This new album features compositions by Saastamoinen, who has become a prominent figure in Finnish jazz. He has been involved in many projects with Anakonda Shark, Arppa Music, and Sir Garrison. His previous albums have been praised for their modern take on traditional jazz forms while remaining accessible to listeners who are not necessarily familiar with jazz music.
The album opens with ‘Anima’, which starts with an almost-tribal rhythm but continues to include some fascinating sonic elements—like the brass sounds that appear toward the beginning of the track. It’s a song that makes you want to get up and dance, or at least bob your head along to it.
‘Arvo’ is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the album. It has an almost mournful quality, but with just enough lightness to keep it from being too heavy. The keys are harsh and deep, while the sax playing is incredible. ‘Vanhatie’ is another great song on this album. It has a lot of energy behind it; I think this one would be great for grabbing coffee or walking around town!
Overall, OK: KO’s new album is an excellent addition to their catalogue! As described by the band themselves, “you can tell that the landscape of Finland is poetic, at times even melancholy. Beauty is ever-present. But don’t be fooled, the band forms real flesh and blood in jazz creativity…”
Liesu is out now via We Jazz Records.