Open exists at the intersection of jazz and ambient music, a precarious territory to occupy. Recent records from musicians and composers as diverse as Carlos Niño, Nala Sinephro, and of course Floating Points (with Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra) are proof that the fertile soil of ambient jazz can yield delicious fruit. Yet if one plants their seeds in the wrong patch of earth, the bounty can come up a little lacking in flavor. Thankfully, veteran Finnish composers Tapani Rinne and Juha Mäki-Patola navigate this landscape with aplomb and turn out a cornucopia of sounds that are as daring as they are introspective.
Tapani and Juha actually met online in the middle of the pandemic, but they’ve been independently immersed in the Finnish music scene for decades. Tapani’s reed work dates back to the 1980s and he even appeared on a record for the illustrious ECM Records label, an imprint known for highlighting the various intersections between jazz and other musical modes. Juha, who is newer on the scene, operates in a more neo-classical arena. His influences run from relatively recent composers like Jóhann Jóhannsson and Max Richter to more established voices such as Philip Glass. It was his past work for the Hush Hush label that led to Open finding a home there.
As is fairly common given current circumstances, Open was birthed through remote collaboration. The two composers traded sounds back and forth over a three-month period, with Juha crafting cinematic backdrops of guitar, piano, and synth over which Tapani lays breathy sax and clarinet melodies. What should be a monochromatic tableau becomes – in their deft hands – a multi-hued vista. The early flowers of Spring – snowdrops and crocuses – peek out from beneath melting sheets of ice, and animals stir from their wintertime slumbering. The reeds roll in like patches of fog, but they form melodies that are awash with sunlight. This careful balance between the chilly and the warm informs the totality of Open, and is what makes the record both an introspective and an engaging experience.