Trio Toykeat is the name of the Finnish ensemble, and on Thursday made its debut in the Amsterdam Bimhuis. As such it is of course not important that a Finnish group plays here. Actually a number of groups play here often from less obvious originating jazz countries. Much more important is that the Finnish Trio, despite a somewhat noisy and definitely unnecessary amplification, made an excellent impression.
Stronger still: Leader and composer Iiro Rantala exposed himself as a heavyweight of the same calibre as Brad Mehldaw. With the difference that Rantala does not choose for the standard repertoire but for his own compositions, which are unmistakingly European in character. Not to forget the manner in which Rantala applies his superior (classical) technique to play with melodies wiithout ever getting bored, reminds one strongly of the way Mehldau seeks the depth in his standard.
The sympathy of the music, which Rantala writes for his Trio Toykeat, a traditional jazz trio with piano-bass-drums, is the total lack of pretention. So they hang together with cliches – but cliches, which bring up a smile, and because the effects are there with such emphasis, Trio Toykeat could almost have been a Dutch band.
A piece like ‘Another Ragtime’ is a good example. In this everything moves around powerful, virtuosely played loops, to which Rantala gives a different twist each time. It refers to the ragtime made famous by Scott Joplin at the start of the century, but also surpasses it.
Another example is ‘Unfinnish Tango’, a piano solo in which the peasantlike raw characteristics of the Finnish Tango (yes, it exists, our own Manlando was not the only one who claims the Argentinian tango for himself) are placed in a romantic framework: just nice to dream away with or simply to enjoy.
The surprisingly well filled hall did this, and treated the blond portly pianist repeatedly with ovational applause. Rantala beamed in this with delight. And justifyingly so. With Trio Toykeat he has played almost everywhere. Only the (spoiled) Dutch public had not been introduced to his music. That deficiency has now been rectified.
Kees Polling, ‘Trouw’ – Holland – 26/9/98