Vilma Timonen Quartet, VTQ (Texicali, 2007)

I've had the distinct pleasure of meeting the Finnish kantele player Vilma Timonen during two different editions of the Maine Kantele Institute. I can personally vouch for her not only being a top notch musician and instructor, but a very likable person as well. Timonen, among many other projects, fronts a quartet consisting of herself on kantele, fellow MKI instructor Topi Korhonen on guitar, Ape Anttila on bass, and Mikko Hassinen on drums. On the CD VTQ, she and her group combine traditional Finnish kantele music with jazzy experimentation and impressionism. Other than some wordless vocalizing on a handful of tracks, the album is entirely instrumental.

VTQ actually reminds me a lot of another CD I've reviewed by somebody I know personally, namely Vjola: World on Four Strings by the New York violist Ljova. Both albums combine straightforward, traditional and folk-inspired pieces with original compositions of a much more challenging nature. Having only a very limited exposure to impressionism and the darker, harder-edged side of jazz, I found portions of both albums very hard to judge. That being said, there are tracks on both albums that are very easy to like. In the case of VTQ, the album is really strong at the beginning, with the first three tracks all being fun and lively. On the mellower side, the penultimate track "Lumi" features some really nice interplay between the kantele and guitar.

While the darker, edgier tracks on the album might not work for everybody, VTQ does reflect a very high degree of musicianship and creativity from Timonen and her quartet. People with broad, adventurous musical tastes should find more than enough to like about this album.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

part of a live performance of "Carelian"

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