Spirit and Turbulence

29. November 2016
Joern Peeck

This night’s concert commented on the mood of this frosty and gloomy winter evening in Tallinn in a very special way: The Kirke Karja Quartet made a strong impression with their mysteriously beautiful music. Energetic and introspective at the same time, they invited the listener to spark that inner fire which can confront the harshness of winter.


Karja’s compositions are marked by a contrast between fast-paced mood sketches and refined storytelling: Combined metre soundscapes with driving rhythms can resolve, all of the sudden, in melodically elegant and energetic solos or act as a pathway to new areas on this exciting listening journey.


It is the dark colouring and great deepness in the sound of Karja’s grand piano which sets up the mood for her music: You can feel this sense of epic, nordic longing that meets ideas inspired by piano music in the romantic, impressionistic and modern idiom. Always rhythmically agile, she created imaginative soundscapes with stormy patterns, burning like a “cold flame”, yet soothing.


Smartly, Karja relied on her band members who complemented her musical vision and took it to a new dimension. Kõressaar’s soulful bass playing easily followed her agility and provided the solid ground for Pilli on guitar, who appeared as a soloist equally often, complemented the music and blended nicely with the piano. Laanesaar on drums embraced and enhanced the many musical layers with differentiated percussive statements.


The concert had its strongest moments, when the interactivity and tension rose to unexpected levels. ‘Tsükkel’, a sparkling duo between piano and drums, poetic and impressionistic, resolved, after being rejoined by the other two band members, in a quirky interpretation of Bill Frisell’s ‘Hangdog’, fragmentarily adding up to a trippy momentum of funky and dubby groove. Towards the end the quartet presented the cinematic, moody and stormy piece ‘Orwell’, which left the audience mesmerized and grateful, calling for an encore.


The quartet manages to take the listener with them on an adventurous travel and they succeed, partly, because the instrumentalists are already individually brilliant. But it is much more about the intensive spirit of Karja’s music they understand to pass on to the audience as a group. Sometimes, the listener can get so lost in these moods, that it becomes hard to tell around which point the music revolves: A harmonic-rhythmic study? A solo? A certain development of a particular mood? It does not really matter.


Because this obscurity is a characteristic of this music that provided the mystery and the strong impression that everybody could get lost in it and finally take it with them, on their way home through that frosty winter night.


Kirke Karja Quartet played on 27th of November at 6 pm in Kumu Auditorium.


Kirke Karja – piano
Kalle Pilli – electric guitar
Martin-Eero Kõressaar – double bass
Karl-Juhan Laanesaar – drums


Check out the photos here.