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John Henry
Audiophile Audition, February 2001

Not exactly the sort of title that is destined to leap to the top of the jazz charts but good words from reviewers, plus the low price contributing to a more experimental attitude on behalf of buyers might get this fun CD onto lots of home CD shelves. The band leader and a trumpet player friend found there were many musicians in the Helsinki area who were interested in playing Afro-Cuban music. This ensemble was the result, and their goal is to give the earlier work of Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente and others a Northern European twist. It works. One thing I especially liked was the relative freedom from extended repetitions of a particular riff - that tends to turn me off in much Latin music. There's a tremendous variety here, and many different skilled soloists. The three man percussion section (in addition to the drummer) produce a wide range of rhythms and sounds that never seem to strike a boring groove. The arrangement of the popular Manteca is really fresh and groovy. The 24 minute suite Three Prayers is based upon sacred chants of the African Yoruba tribe, still part of Cuban folklore.

Don Heckman
Los Angeles Times, November 2000

"...the spirit of latin jazz is alive and well, amazingly, in a country with few tropical associations... Jere Laukkanen's Finnish Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra" (3 out of four stars) is an ensemble that clearly understadns both the spirit and the content of the music. And the distance from the heartbeat of latin jazz may have encouraged Laukkanen to stretch the parameters of his creative perspective. His arrangement of the Gillespie/Chano Pozo "manteca," for example, retains most of the original qualities while adding some strikingly contemporary groove qualities to the mix. It works a lot better than one might have anticipated. The album also includes Laukkanen's unusual transformation of Jaco Pastorius' "Teen Town" (written for Weather Report) and a group of impressive originals. any doubters who question the global reach of jazz in general, and latin jazz in particular, are directed to the superb writing and playing on this easy-to-overlook album."

Don Mather

The Jere Laukkanen Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra was founded in 1966(sic) in Helsinki, Finland. Lead trumpet player Sami Poyhonen got together with the leader to form a "second home" for Finish jazz musicians interested in playing Afro-Cuban music.

The pioneer of this style was Dizzy Gillespie, who always had Afro themes in his programme and wrote Manteca, although the arrangement is new.

This CD came as a very pleasant surprise to me, a number of the previous Big Band albums I have heard from the NAXOS label, have been very esoteric, containing music that is much more fun to play, than listen to. This album satisfies both sides, you can feel the musicians enjoying themselves and it is great to listen to. Finland is not the first place you would expect to find a Big band of this quality, playing excellent original arrangements, with excellent soloists. It demonstrates the way the rest of the world has closed the gap with the USA where jazz is concerned.

Teen Town is a Weather Report tune remodelled for Big Band with an interesting Tuba solo from Mikko Mustonen. Hispaniola is a Laukkanen original featuring Bass Trombone player Mikael Langbacka. Manteca has some fine Guitar from Markku Martikainen, followed by some Saxophone chase choruses. Tracks 4,5&6 are a Suite called the 'Three Prayers'.

Tercer Verano (Third Summer) features Yoel Terry on Flute. The final number features Pekka Pylkkanen on Alto and Teemu Mattsson on Trumpet.

This is a good band, playing good arrangements and well worth a listen by anyone who like me is a fan of melodic Big Band jazz

C. Michael Bailey
All About Jazz

The Subatomic. Trio Friedrich-Herbert-Moreno music might best be compared to that of Mike Nock's Naxos Jazz trio recording, Not We But One. That is, it has a structured, free-wheeling sound pregnant with personality and panache. This is progressive trio music that should be considered with that of pianists Paul Bley and Uri Caine. All pieces, save one (Ellington's “Azure”) are originals, all introspectively extroverted. A paradox speaking to an enigma about an iconoclast. This music is a superb, poorly behaved collection that will tickle the fancy of any advant-gardist without running off the more mainstream.

The Superatomic. Talk about a multicultural affair. It was once said of Baroque composer Handel that he...”was a Saxon, living in England, writing Italian operas.” Jere Laukkanen's Finnish Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra is a Scandinavian bunch playing American Music, channeling Chano Pozo. The result is a brash, loud, complex mercurial affair that jumps out and grabs the listener by the shirt collar. Laukkanen composed the majority of the cleverness digitally expressed on this disc. He has a smart ear and engaging compositional style. His arranging talent is put to the test on Dizzy's “Manteca” and a burning rendition of Jaco Pastorius' “Teen Town”. Laukkanen taps other Naxos Jazz talent for this disc, employing Pekka Pylkkanen ( Pekka's Tube Factory 86028-2) on reeds and Lenni-Kalle Taipale ( Nothing to Hide 86035-2) on keyboards. The sum of all of these parts illustrates why Scandinavian big bands have come to the forefront of large ensemble jazz.

D. Oscar Groomes
O’s Place Jazz Magazine

Afro-Cuban Big Band with Finnish musicians would not seem a likely success story but Jere and his band do an excellent job! They capture nuances in the music with daring new arrangements that freshen classics like "Manteca" and modernize ancient chants of the Yoruba tribe.

Scott Yanow

There is certainly no way of knowing, without looking at the personnel listing of Finnish Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, that Jere Laukkanen's 21-piece orchestra is from Helsinki, Finland. His Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra has an appealing sound and Laukkanen's arrangements make "Manteca" and Jaco Pastorius' "Teen Town" sound fresh and a little different than expected. "Obatala," "Chango," and "Ochun" are the three sections of a suite called "Three Prayers," with each part based on ancient sacred chants from Cuba. Though none of the soloists are well known outside of Finland, they are all quite talented and understand the music well. This spirited set, which sounds more contemporary than most American Latin jazz groups (and does not exclusively play Afro-Cuban jazz), is worth exploring.

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