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Rent Romus, Heikki Koskinen, Life's Blood Ensemble - Itkuja Suite, invocations on lament
Itkuja Coffee Mug: $20
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Itkuja Handkerchief

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Rent Romus, Heikki Koskinen, Life's Blood Ensemble - Itkuja Suite, invocations on lament Rent Romus, Heikki Koskinen, Life's Blood Ensemble - Manala

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Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble - The Otherworld Cycle Rent Romus, Heikki Koskinen, Life's Blood Ensemble - Manala Rent Romus, Heikki Koskinen, Life's Blood Ensemble - Itkuja Suite, invocations on lament

Rent Romus, Heikki Koskinen
Life's Blood Ensemble, Heikki Laitinen
Itkuja Suite, invocations on lament

CD $20
Released 2023

The plaint in minor mode sounding out in the first few moments of this album is a harbinger of the rewards composers Heikki Koskinen and Rent Romus have reaped on this exploration of their cultural heritage. What you’re hearing is itkuja, pronounced ‘eet-koo-ya’. The word stands for traditional lamentations in Finland, one of several delightful musical paradoxes in that culture. Up until the first part of the last century, itkuja singers were hired for both funerals and weddings, and they both mourn and celebrate. On this new recording, themed on the challenges of the living, Life’s Blood and Laitinen are splendidly supportive of the mission. The compositions by Romus and Koskinen summon the instrumentalists to shine in solos, pairings, and ensemble.
The result is an audible balance between sadness and joy, inherent to itkuja. “We’re expressing the feeling of lamentation in a way that’s universal”, says Romus, “and putting the life-affirming elements of jazz in with the lament structure.” The itkuja conventions of alliteration and parallel exposition are channeled in both lyrics and music.
The stories, sung by Laitinen in Finnish, are (with one exception) historical laments informed by The National Archives of Finland’s Ancient Poems of the Finnish People, with reference to the historic refugees of Finno-Ugric people across Northern Europe, and also to Romus and Koskinen’s longing for their heritage. With the benefit of translation, this offers listeners a dazzling discovery both musical and poetic, and a universal call to remembrance and healing.

Rent Romus - alto & soprano saxophone, C-flute, king flute, voice, melodica
Heikki Koskinen - tenor recorder, e-trumpet, kantele
Heikki Laitinen - vocals
Joshua Marshall - tenor & soprano saxophone, C-flute
Erika Oba - C-flute, Piccolo
Ann McChesney-Young - accordion
Max Judelson - cello
Mark Clifford - vibraphone
Safa Shokrai - double bass
Cory Combs - double bass
Timothy Orr - drums, percussion

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"This piece is palpably a process of restoration and reparation, how the self is always in conversation with cultural belonging, and how where one comes from is deeply intertwined with identity, ancestral healing, existential survival, and resistance to cultural erasure. Lament is healing; music is medicine." - Elise Mills, White Crate SF

"I have to confess that, after the first few listening experiences, I still feel that I am at the beginning of an ambitious journey. Still, I continue to feel that the journey is worth taking; and I suspect that I shall be spending as much time with the booklet as with listening to the music itself."
- Stephen Smoliar, The Rehearsal Studio

"Itkuja Suite deftly traverses emotional borders, at once railing against the cruel world while inviting us to dance to big band-inspired jazz. But this isn’t about contrasting two extremes; to me, it’s more an exploration around a multi-dimensional field of conflicting, intertwining senses."
- Craig Matsumoto, Memory Select

"Romus provides very lush arrangements featuring copious amounts of vibraphone. The horn charts with their slightly odd intervals remind one a bit of Sun Ra’s Arkestra. Heikki Laitinen’s historical itkuja laments coupled with accordion bring an earthy folk element to the whole endeavor." - Albion Moonlight, KFJC 89.7FM

"Bringing a fresh multi-genre approach to the style are San Francisco musicians Heikki Koskinen, a pioneer in the Finnish free jazz scene before moving to the US in the 70s, and Rent Romus, an American saxophonist of Finnish descent." - Songlines

"...free-form but eloquently structured with room for intelligent solos, expertly done." - Steve Mecca, Chain DLK

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