[1 May 2012]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
The aptly named Conversations marks the latest of “30 or so recordings” together by two Finnish jazzmen, tenor saxophonist Juhani Aaltonen and pianist/composer Heikki Sarmanto. Like conversations, these duets are largely improvisational; even Sarmanto’s original tunes tend to be, in his words, “abstract vehicles for improvisation” rather than heads and changes. Like any two guys who’ve known each other for 50 years, Aaltonen and Sarmanto chat, argue and finish one another’s phrases with an ease that says they’ve been over similar ground before. On the duo improv “Free Souls” or the ‘Trane tribute “War Trane”, they’ll command the attention of anyone within earshot. But more often these are private songs, slow ruminations explored for the pleasure of the players and their small cohort of confidants.