Finnish-born pianist/composer Mika Pohjola has been touted as one of the most significant Scandinavian musicians of his generation. The Helsinki native, who has resided in New York since 1995, has released twenty-five recordings under his own name, including works for solo piano and orchestra. For Northern Sunrise Pohjola recruits in-demand saxophonist Steve Wilson, guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Mark Ferber for a presentation of forward thinking compositions and arrangements.
Pohjola’s writing mixes highly-structured rhythmic motifs, melodic variations and free-flowing group improvisations. The looseness afforded to Monder’s guitar on the opening title track and "Blues Chacarera" blends nicely with the leader’s composed references. The same could be said of the interaction between Biolcati and Ferber during the suite-like trio pieces "Early Global Hearing," "Intermediate Global Hearing" and "Late Global Hearing."
Some of the disc’s more adventurous playing comes from Pohjola on "Ebb & Flow" and Wilson on the Latin-tinged "Old Manhattan Tango." Exceptional ensemble work, chock full of fiery unison lines, can be heard on the lengthy fusion-inspired "Human Impact."
The disc ends with a somber, yet touching solo piano rendition of Charles Mingus’ "Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love." Here, the pianist demonstrates an appreciation for thick, layered voicings and an inventive left-hand; a satisfying end to a disc full of creativity and surprise.