Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Five Corners Quintet: Looking At A New Century

The Five Corners Quintet
(group; formed 2005)

Five Corners Quintet hail from Helsinki, Finland. Many of the members were originally with the short-lived collective, Nuspirit Helsinki, an electronica outfit that used jazz as a small jumping off point. The Five Corners Quintet flips the script by utilizing those jazz elements to create something that pays homage yet is fresh for a new decade.

They have also collaborated with one of the greatest living jazz vocalists, Mark Murphy on both of their albums, Chasin' The Jazz Gone By (Ricky Tick Records) and Hot Corner (Ricky Tick Records), which shows they did their homework. Both albums employ a hard bop approach with splendid musicianship (especially on the vibraphone and horn sections).

Chasin' The Jazz Gone By really is superb. A collection of new beats, hard bop and hip-shakin' grooves that not only are perfect for the party atmosphere but will also compliment your evening alone with a nice glass of Merlot. The tracks with Mark Murphy ("Start Of Something", " Before We Say Goodbye","Jamming") are excellent showcases for both the band and the legendary vocalist. But don't let those tracks fool you. You need to check out "Devil Kicks" and "Straight Up" as case studies in how European bands are absorbing American influences and turning it into something unique and highly interesting.

On first listen to their debut I thought they would be a one album wonder. Then I picked up the second and was genuinely floored by the fact that Five Corners Quintet actually mean business and this may be a band that will be around for awhile. Hot Corner is an uptempo floor-burning album with more emphasis on melodies and instrumentation than the added use of electronics. The barn-burning '"Hot Rod" opens the proceedings and set the stage for what will be an exciting ride for the next 45 minutes. Mellow groove of "Midnight In Trieste" and "Waltz Up" for me shows some lessons learned from Lee Morgan and Sonny Clark. Again Mark Murphy joins in on the funky, latin-tinged "Kerouac Days In Montana" with great effect. A whole album of Mark Murphy backed by Five Corners would awesome. The other vocalist on Hot Corner is named Oku and she provides an additional soulfulness on the lovely "Rich In Time". The album stays funky and contemporary on the outro with "Habib's Habit" with some wonderful trumpet playing from founding member, Jukka Eskola.

Both Chasin' The Jazz Gone By and Hot Corner are pretty easy to find in most stores and are definitely available online. While I don't think The Five Corners Quintet will change the face of jazz, I do think they will give a reason to listening over and over and over. Great stuff from a band born out of electronica and finally finding its feet in the tradition in jazz. If you looking for something fresh with a graceful nod to the past, The Five Corners Quintet is a good place to start.

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