It is said that music does not lie in the notes themselves but between them, and it is exactly in that space where Boston-based Finnish fretless/fretted guitarist and oudist JUSSI REIJONEN‘s music thrives and blossoms. His critically acclaimed and Independent Music Award -nominated debut album, un, out now on unmusic, has been a lifelong musical journey in the making – a journey that spans three decades and four continents, and which has taken him from his native Northern Finland to years spent living in the Middle East, East Africa, and now the United States. From the very first notes of opening piece Serpentine until the last echoes of album closer, Kaiku, have faded into the ether, the album never once loosens its grip on the unsuspecting listener; what lies between the bookends is a breathtaking musical journey that walks a crooked tightrope between tension and resolution and gracefully dances between the traditions of American and Scandinavian jazz and the folk musics of the Middle East and Africa in its thirst for new sounds and textures. In this day an age, where the term is so frequently misused, un is true world music from a true world citizen – music in its most honest, heartfelt true sense; music with no frontiers.
Although born in Rovaniemi, a picturesque small town on the Arctic Circle in northern Finland, Reijonen did not grow up an ordinary Nordic childhood; the decade between age 6 and 16 was spent moving between Finnish Lapland, Jordan, Tanzania, Oman and Lebanon as his family followed his father’s work around the world. Since relocating to the US in 2008, he has had the honor of performing with the likes of renowned jazz drummer Jack deJohnette, flamenco cantaor legend Pepe de Lucia, Spanish multi-Grammy-award-winning producer and flamenco guitarist Javier Limón, Palestinian oud/violin master Simon Shaheen, fretless guitar pioneer David Fiuczynski, Turkey’s gypsy clarinet legend Hüsnü Senlendirici, and Lebanese nay virtuoso and multi-instrumentalist Bassam Saba, to name a few. As a result, in both his original compositions and his playing, the open spaces and silences of Scandinavia effortlessly rub shoulders with the maqamat of the Arab world and the rhythmic richness of India and West Africa, creating a truly enchanting musical mosaic. As he puts it himself, “This music has come to me over a period of several years… a lifetime, almost. Un is the result of a childhood spent growing up in five different countries on three different continents, and an adulthood spent wondering where I am really from and where my true roots are. For years, I have been trying to find answers to why all these seemingly disparate sounds pull me towards them so strongly, and how to bring what they have given me into a musical handwriting that makes sense and is in balance with itself. For me, un is a journey Home… wherever that might be.”
In keeping with the idea of creating true modern world music, un brings together a unique and international cast of five seasoned musicians from Finland, Turkey, Sweden, Palestine and Spain. Between the five of them, JUSSI REIJONEN: un - Reijonen on fretless/fretted guitars and the 11-string Arabic lute oud, Utar Artun on piano, Bruno Råberg on acoustic bass, and Tareq Rantisi and Sergio Martinez on percussion – shares an impressive resume that reads like a who’s-who of contemporary jazz and world music: the members have worked with the likes of Paul Simon, Jack deJohnette, Pepe de Lucia, Enrique Morente, Diego el Cigala, Simon Shaheen, Javier Limón, Maria Schneider, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Bobby McFerrin, George Garzone, Ben Monder, Mick Goodrick, David Fiuczynski, Steve Smith, and Alejandro Sanz. With Reijonen handling compositions, arrangements, and production on the album, the Quintet traverses the supposed boundaries between musical cultures effortlessly, with a blend of humility, grace, and presence.
Reijonen goes on to say, “I believe in two musical fundaments – Honesty and Presence. For me, for any art to communicate and connect, it has to have both, and neither can exist without the other. The album title has multiple meanings, some of them contradictory. ‘Un’ is a reference to a Persian poem by Hafez. ‘Un’ in Persian can refer to Presence. ‘Un’ in French is ‘one’. ‘Un’ in English is ‘not’. I was never fully of any one culture, of any one walk of life, of any one mold, yet this is exactly what makes me the individual and musician that I am. Growing up how I did, I am by default a fusion of cultures, so for my music to be honest, it must be a fusion of cultures. Ultimately, un is me both defying being any One Idea exclusively, and embracing the concept of being One – defying definition but embracing what it is that makes each one of us an individual.”
Jussi Reijonen’s debut album un was released in Finland on Jan 25 2013 and in the US and internationally on Feb 26 2013 on the unmusic label. He is currently endorsed by Elixir Strings.