Finnish jazz-rock quartet eCsTaSy, led by the formidable talents of guitarist Raoul Björkenheim, also features the stellar skills of Pauli Lyytinen (bass, tenor and soprano saxophones, mey), Jori Huhtala (double bass), and Markku Ounaskari (drums). Their sophomore album on Cuneiform Records is titled Out of the Blue, and includes eight tracks of majestic jazz with the attitude of rock, clearly influenced by some of the greats of the '60s & '70s. At times you'll hear bits of Pangaea era Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Terje Rypdal, and the Tony Williams Lifetime, with Björkenheim's screaming, often times fuzz soaked licks stampeding over nimble jazz rhythms and wild sax explorations from Lyytinen.
A darker approach can be heard on the lengthy "Heads & Tales", which seems to take the early '70s Miles Davis influence of deep rhythms and acrobatic guitar & sax solos, borrowing as much from rock and jazz as it does blues. "Quintrille" is much more of a bouncy, upbeat track, as quirky rhythms underpin a sizzling guitar solo and catchy sax melodies, while the meditative "A Fly in the House of Love" builds and builds with plinking guitar patters but never really unloads its fury. "Uptown" is Out of the Blue's clear jazz-rocker, a vibrant, catchy number fueled by scorching guitar & sax solos, and the menacing "OLJ" sees metallic guitar chords eventually give way to squonking sax and blazing lead guitar that recalls John McLaughlin, Robert Fripp, and Terje Rypdal. For "Roller Coaster", the band approach 'free-jazz', as a cacophony of guitar, sax & drum patterns assault your senses before closing out with a catchy little melody. Closing things out is the 10+ minute "Zebra Dreams", a tranquil number complete with nimble bass lines and soaring sax melodies, probably the one song here where the quartet allow for some 'space' and work on more sedate song structures, adding some nice variety to the back end of the album.
Out of the Blue is ultimately a very enjoyable slice of impressive jazz-rock, as eCsTaSy show they can go full steam ahead into either jazz or rock, or settle nicely somewhere in between. Wonderful ensemble playing, killer guitar work, stunning sax, it's all here folks, so be sure not to miss this one.
Heads & Tales 07:07
A Fly In the House Of Love 06:01
You Never Know 02:41
Roller Coaster 03:41
Zebra Dreams 10:08