Es passiert ja selten, dass man sich hinsetzt und einer CD einfach zuhören muss. Iiro Rantalagelingt dieses Kunststück der Aufmerksamkeitsbündelung, denn der Finne schafft es,Unterhaltung und Bedeutung, Eigenheit und Esprit in seine Musik zu packen. Bislang bekanntals Kopf des clever klangkalauernden Trio Töykeät hat er sich nach dessen Auflösung 2006 einpaar Jahre mit verschiedenen Projekten orientiert und ist nun bei sich selbst angekommen.Sein vorläufiges Meisterstück heißt „Lost Heroes" (ACT 9504-2), präsentiert ihn mit sich alleinam Flügel und einem Kopf voller Erinnerungen, die er in Klänge fasst. Es sind Gedanken, dieihn mit Freunden und Vorbildern zusammenbringen, Menschen, die ihn im Laufe seiner Karrierebeeindruckt und geprägt haben. Pekka Pohjola zum Beispiel, E-Bassist, Komponist und Freak,der der finnischen Szene seit den Siebzigern den Jazzrock nahe gebracht hatte. Oder EsbjörnSvensson, der 2008 bei einem Tauchunfall gestorbene Visionär musikalischer Fokussierung.Vor ihnen und vor Stilgrößen wie Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bill Evans, ja sogar vor demNationalhelden Jean Sibelius verneigt sich Iiro Rantala mit pianistischer Eleganz undüberwiegend eigenen Kompositionen, ein Souverän des Anschlags, der Dynamikkontrolle,großer Bögen und kleiner Fluchten. „Lost Heroes" ist Musik mit der Kraft eines produktivTrauernden, der seine Gefühle in vielsagende, stellenweise humorvolle Geschichten packt. Einbeeindruckender Wurf!
Ralf Dombrowski February 23, 2011 www.ralfdombrowski.de (DE)
"Himself a hero: Rantala is already at the level of his heroes. ... He is also a highly respected and regularly performing concert pianist and a perfect master of the traditional jazz piano. Rantala understands and creates his music from these different angles. In this he is unique"
Ludwig Jurgeit - "Jazzpodium" Feb'11
"Pianist iiro Rantala sheds musical "Tears for Esbjörn" on his album "Lost Heroes". Completely unsentimental, entirely touching".
Stern Magazine Germany
Review: Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala unleashes hailstorm Iiro Rantala, former member of the defunct Finnish jazz supergroup Trio Toykeat, crafts long, sinuous tunes, serpentine in timbre and tone, yet accessible and guileful in their transitions. Nimble-fingered scaling and rapid, dual-fisted minor-key slams slip fluidly into chipper waltzes and Art Tatum-esque swing. He hunches over the piano in a tropical sea-blue shirt, looking a little solipsistic, gently swaying his head, his body still and his hands galloping and jumping and thrashing and pounding, living entities full of vigor. A steady three-note pulse occupies his left hand, a trance-inducing, almost minimalist little riff around which Rantala wraps a frantic improvised solo. (He signals the start and end of his solos by raising his hand, as improvisation is rare in Rantala’s performances; he’s proclaimed that “compositions come first.”) His feet stomp while he sings to himself with his eyes closed, and his right hand explores the gamut of keys, unleashing a protean hailstorm, never errant or erroneous, always melodic. Rantala has worn his influences like badges of honor, or perhaps like bumper stickers tagging where his aesthetics and aspirations have ventured. He throws insouciant winks toward piano pioneers Bill Evans and Duke Ellington, as well as the mad maestro of fretless bass, Jaco Pastorius. His performance is essentially a history of jazz peppered with jokes (“I won’t be playing any cool jazz, it’s cold enough in Finland!”). He performs renditions of Bach and Gershwin and offers commentary between tunes, edifying the audience with simplified theoretical musings. His covers (to borrow a phrase not usually used by classical musicians) are suffused with zest, but the Finish composer seems most vehement when performing his own material: the mnemonic, sepia-tinged “Americans in Paris” flutters by like a swarm of butterflies; the Jonathan Franzen-inspired “Freedom” veers from mania to meditation and back; and in “Thinking of Misty” the flurry of notes fires from his fingers like sparks from a powerful wizard. Rantala’s compositions are like aural macaronics, mixing the languages of classical and jazz into something new and singular. The defiant bite and zeal of jazz pervades the restrained melodies common in classical music. Rhythmic washes bleed in and out of chaos. The songs build in intensity and mutate into combustible concoctions. Rantala isn’t afraid to forego this affinity for bedlam. Sometimes he’s a fervid, one-man cacophony of focused energy, sometimes he’s as mellow as transient clouds drifting across an azure sky. He can make a vast abyss seem homey, but it’s the quiet, intimate moments that seep into the deeper confines of the heart.
Greg Cwik is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.
"Iiro Rantala – My History In Jazz The title on this recording isn’t coincidental. Iiro Rantala is expressing his own personal relationship with Jazz, and like any other relationship in life, it involves elements that don’t necessarily fall under the Jazz umbrella. That’s why classical compositions by Bach and pop standards like “September Song” are presented along with original pieces and renditions of songs like “Caravan.” Rantala’s sound doesn’t sacrifice its typical austere grace as it switches up the source material, but there’s a noticeable shift in the overall sound from track to track, duly reflecting the disparate influences on his history in jazz. Rantala’s takes on Bach’s “Goldberg Variation” possess a distant warmth, whereas the group’s rendition of “Caravan” echoes the original’s boisterousness. “Eronel” has a friendly piano trio hop and bounce that would fit right into the jazz scene of the sixties, whereas the casual propulsion and lovely melodic drift of “Smoothie” is an outstanding example of how jazz musicians of the new century are putting their stamp on the artform. Violinist Baldych guests on four of the tracks. It’s nice to see him getting put to use since signing with the ACT Music label. He’s a hell of a talent, and fits in just fine with the established pros that comprise the core trio." Your album personnel: Iiro Rantala (piano), Lars Danielsson (bass, cello), Morten Lund (drums), and guest: Adam Baldych (violin).
“The party is over” – that’s what Iiro Rantala must have had in mind, when he turned to the memory of the departed. Long enough did the Finnish pianist perform high level musical slapstick as the head of “Trio Töykeät”. After almost two decades the successful band broke up in 2006 and also the follow-up project with guitar and human beat box was quickly put to an end. For that reason, Iiro Rantala had time, to fully devote himself to his instrument – without the pressure of constant touring and other obligations. He took a break, played lots of classical music, came to terms with many musical memories and so his fist solo-project “Lost Heroes” (ACT) with homages to personalities like Pekka Pohjola or Esbjörn Svensson, who strongly influenced him, grew up. When the repertoire was complete, it was recorded in Leipzig on an outstanding Steinway grand piano. This was important since Iiro Rantala’s pianistic attack allows subtly contoured nuances of expression. Despite all seriousness, Iiro Rantala is Finnish enough, to include a pinch of ludicrous humour in his phrases. A masterpiece of musical hero worship.
Ralf Dombrowski, Wed. 23 February 2011, Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE)