Iiro Rantala String Trio

Anyone With A Heart

Format: CD
Label: ACT music
UPC: 0614427956620
Catnr: ACT 95662
Release date: 28 February 2014
1 CD
ACT music
Catalogue number
ACT 95662
Release date
28 February 2014

"A delightful CD"

Rootstime.be, 07-4-2014

About the album

When pianist Iiro Rantala won the German Record Critics Award three years ago with his ACT and solo debut "Lost Heroes", following it up with the ECHO Jazz and thus abruptly launching himself into the top ranks of Europe's jazz musicians, he could have taken the easy way out and simply made another solo album. But the Finn preferred to keep systematically developing his career. It was also a return to his classical roots: Rantala not only studied in the jazz department of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, he also learned classical piano at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. And his passion for music didn't only begin with Johann Sebastian Bach at the tender age of six, it remains a big part of him to this day: "I have to play Bach every day. I need my daily fix of his music." Consequently, the Goldberg Variations also serve as the binding agent for "My History Of Jazz", Rantala's next album on his journey to himself that came out at the end of 2012, in a quartet with Lars Danielsson, Morten Lund and Adam Bałdych.

And now, with "Anyone With A Heart", he takes that journey further, definitively showing himself to be a great Neo Romantic, beyond all stylistic limitations: "I have always loved melodies," he explains, "but in today's jazz, most people try to get by without them. And if they don't, they play standards." "Anyone With A Heart" literally revels in melodies, and unlike on "My History Of Jazz", which was inspired by and addressed to his idols, Rantala this time composed all the numbers himself – all except the homage to the Great American Songbook "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". And he conceived all of them from the outset for the classical form of the piano trio: piano, violin and cello.

It is a form that is quite unique in jazz, and hence not easy to find. There was no question as to who would play the violin: Rantala had already discovered the Pole Adam Bałdych for "My History of Jazz", and there is probably no other violinist who is so similar to him right now. Like Rantala, Bałdych is a consummately virtuoso all-rounder with a distinct lyrical streak. And Bałdych's career is also on a steep upward curve.

What remained was the cello: "I had two names," Rantala recalls, "a Dane, who was, however, already a band leader, and Asja Valcic. I went to one of her concerts in Vienna's Porgy & Bess club, we talked about the project afterwards and that same evening we started playing and practicing. I wrote all the cello parts exactly for her. I love her tone." So this too was an ideal combination. After all, the Austrian also has her background in classical music, and with the radio.string.quartet.vienna and in duet with Klaus Paier she has adequately proven her open-mindedness and entirely independent technique.

On "Anyone With A Heart" the three set off on an overwhelming trip through the human emotions. From the cheery, self-confident pizzicato reveries the likes of "Karma" and "A Gift", to profound, almost furious melancholy as in "Alone", to spiritual exaltations ("Prayer", in which Rantala's love of Bach can also be seen), through to dramatically dynamic waves ("Hard Score") and childlike playfulness ("Happy Hippo", behind which a scene from the Ben Stiller comedy "Along Came Polly" was the driving force) – all brought together in the title track "Anyone With A Heart". The essence of Rantala's new music is perhaps best described by "Freedom", a track inspired by Jonathan Franzen's novel of the same name: each of the three soloists can display their wares here, embedded in a compelling melody, and even when playing together there is scope for all kinds of variations and freedoms, for changes of tempo and harmony, all the way to the tones like those provided here by Rantala on his muted grand piano.

Rantala is aware of the risk he has taken with "Anyone With A Heart": "In former times, for example with the Trio Töykeät, it was all about saying: "Look at us! We can do this too!" Now it's simply about my melodies. That is much more personal. But what is simple is at the same time the difficulty. It is a fine line: if it gets too easy, the Richard Clayderman warning light goes on." Although this is a danger that Rantala, Bałdych and Valcic circumnavigate without even thinking about it, thanks to their ability, intellect and taste. "Anyone With A Heart" is a music that someone like Franz Schubert or Jean Sibelius might create if they were around today.


Iiro Rantala
Iiro Rantala is "a natural phenomenon on keys" (German jazz magazine Jazzthing); an all-rounder of whom New York-based pianist and arranger Gil Goldstein quite rightly said: "Iiro Rantala is a pianistic sensation who makes the strongest case I know to believe in reincarnation, because his pianistic technique and musical sensitivity speak of depths that appear impossible to have been achieved in this lifetime alone".
Up to now, Rantala was mainly associated with the trio Töykeät, one of the weirdest, funniest and most visionary piano trios in international jazz. He sounded out all the possibilities of this formation: Sometimes playing the energetic lion on keys, sometimes the sensitive romantic or the burlesque clown. His playing blasted away all stylistic boundaries and was as uncompromised as it was entertaining, but kept together by a magical triangle: his boundless technical ability and his unmistakeable senses of humour and style. Rantala preserved his unique skills for his solo career when Töykeät broke up in 2006 after playing together for 18 years.

His solo career kicked off with his 2011 ACT debut "Lost Heroes". It represents his very personal homage to all the outstanding musicians in history he is inspired by. Alongside with famous jazz musicians like Esbjörn Svensson, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans or Jaco Pastorius, he also dedicates tunes to opera singer Luciano Pavarotti or composer Jean Sibelius. Rantala avoids every sentimentality in favour of a real act of admiration and completely remains himself: One of the most competent pianists in Scandinavian jazz.

The album was celebrated as on the best piano solo recordings in recent times.
German newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung" even called it a "masterpiece". The album also won the prestigious German Critic's award as "Jazz album of the year 2011". In June 2012 Rantala received the ECHO Jazz (German Grammy) for Best International Pianist.

Rantala's new album "My History of Jazz" will be brought out on October 26
and present his very personal view of jazz history and the role of the piano in it. The album was recorded with Lars Danielsson (bass), Morten Lund (drums) and Adam Baldych (violin).


A delightful CD
Rootstime.be, 07-4-2014

Iiro Rantala takes you with ‘Anyone with a heart’ back to the basics, back to the heart of the music, to make the audience listen very carefully to this moving music!
Musicframes, 07-4-2014

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