Before February last year, Tapani Rinne and Juha Mäki-Patola hadn’t met. But damn, are we glad that they did. Open is an ambient album that sees Rinne layer gorgeous saxophone and clarinet on top of Mäki-Patola’s delicate, neo-classical work that mixes piano with synthesizers, albeit very subtly. If you’ve followed Rinne’s career, you’ll see he’s got over three decades’ worth of credits to his name, with Mäki-Patola pushing into his second. This level of experience shows through each composition, no two tracks sounding the same. Three months of remote working later, they were ready to get down to brass tacks and record the album.
Open feels very similar to the excellent Promises by Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders, released last year, with lots of quiet, beautiful tracks which are either overlayed by a louder sax, or a moodier clarinet. Despite the moodiness of the horns at times, I never feel down or depressed listening to this record, as the neo-classical work in the background always sounds hopeful and uplifting. It’s a clever fusion and allows your mind to really wander when listening.
Opening track “Brevity” captures you immediately through its long intro, with some exceptional saxophone from Rinne being utilised as the ambient synth layer slowly creeps in from the background to accentuate the swells of the horn. Midway through the track, the first notes of Mäki-Patola’s muted piano roll in, accompanied by a fleeting bit of bass, the final effect akin to cresting the top of a large hill to find a stunning view out in front of you. Given the scope of nature in Finland, it’s not hard to imagine where this inspiration came from.
I won’t be doing a track-by-track breakdown here, but I did want to highlight “Open Part I” to fans of the aforementioned Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders album. It might be common in ambient, but the repetitive piano motifs used in this track felt akin to the stunning use of motif reprises in Promises. The sax rambles away, enticing the piano out with sudden peaks that imbue a sense of wonder and hope in you. I also thoroughly enjoyed the overall ambience, with subtle things like clicking in the background grounding you and making the track feel nice and homely. The great motif does make a reappearance later in the album, albeit in a slightly different form in “Open Part II”.
In terms of listening to the record, I certainly would recommend enjoying it either on headphones or big speakers that can really fill the room. On my smaller kitchen speakers, I found so much detail lost to the ether of daily life, that the album didn’t hook me. When settling down to chill at the end of the working day with headphones, however, I found myself enthralled with the subtle introduction of layers, and the deep, bassy horns that guide your relaxation. The composition is masterful, really invoking the icy climate of Finland, with the ambience caressing you like gentle winds whilst still giving this sense of epic-ness like there’s a whole world to explore, just over your shoulder.
Open certainly surprised me, as one very fresh to the minimalist jazz scene. Not only does it hold my attention from start to finish, it keeps surprising me with the delicate effects and moments scattered throughout by these maestros. Tapani Rinne and Juha Mäki-Patola should certainly work together again, either in a direct follow-up or as part of one of the duo’s many other side acts and opportunities. Open will certainly have you yearning for mountains and artic tundras in no time.