Female double bassists are few and far between so it’s nice to see someone with XX chromosomes not only composing and playing interesting jazz music but also leading her own quartet.
Finnish-born 27-year-old Kaisa Mäensivu has just completed her Masters degree at the Manhattan School of Music and is now making a name for herself as a purveyor of classy bebop in New York. In The Key Of K sees her teaming up with Max Zenger on saxophone, Mikael Myrskog on piano and drummer Jonatan Sarikoski. The result is an album of tasteful, entertaining original compositions that allow all four musicians to stretch out a bit without outstaying their welcome.
It may be Kaisa’s band but it’s Zenger’s warm but authoritative saxophone that dominates proceedings. It’s the first instrument you hear on the first track, Treat It Well – an opener that begins sedately enough but soon picks up to show how smoothly all four musicians blend together, even when things get a bit frenetic.
The sublime Strom begins with a simple, repetitive piano chord before Zenger plays some sprightly phrases while Kaisa herself gets a chance to interject with some brief but interesting double bass solos. Drumhum dials things down a notch before the brooding menace of Turn & Return, during which Zenger shows he can solo effectively without resorting to too many squeaks and honks.
Myrskog sprinkles tinkling arpeggios over the bossa nova-ish Good Intentions, while Sarikoski has a bit of a bash on the eight-minute closer Levels.
Kaisa herself rarely dominates proceedings, content to lay down a solid framework for her compositions and let her colleagues take most of the glory. But her influence is felt in the tone of the entire album – it is mostly upbeat, warm and sunny, reflecting the fact that in every picture I’ve seen of Ms Mäensivu she has a big smile on her face.
This results in an album that is perhaps a little too safe and well-mannered, a little too tasteful for these ears. But it’s a very pleasant listen for 43 minutes and provides light relief from, say, the latest 150 CD King Crimson box set.
01. Treat It Well (7:43)
02. Strom (6:55)
03. Drumhum (7:06)
04. Turn & Return (6:30)
05. Good Intentions (7:33)
06. Levels (7:55)
Total Time – 43:42
Kaisa Mäensivu – Double Bass
Max Zenger – Saxophone
Mikael Myrskog – Piano
Jonatan Sarikoski – Drums
Record Label: Eclipse Music
Country of Origin: Finland
Date of Release: 8th December, 2017