Sometimes inspiring and wonderful new tangos may grow in dark and cold areas such as Finland. While one may have the preconception that tangos from Finland are all camouflaged marches (let´s call it dynamic ballroom tango), Yona´s 2014 album “Tango a la Yona” may change the listener´s mind. The music of the Finnish folk and jazz singer Johanna Pitkänen has so much more to offer. For example track 7 (“Sen teen”) is starting with a double bass line to define the harmonic structure, followed by Yona´s cautious voice which gently starts to fly during the chorus, some curious cello harmonies here and there, and decent piano voicings in the chorus. A colorful violin solo contrasts with the strange cello harmonies, and later on the listener is surprised by some clarinets. Very touching. - Oh, by the way, this is the Finnish version of Francesca Gagnon´s “Querer”, written by the Canadian composer René Dupéré (who wrote for the Cirque du Soleil). Kudos to the pianist and arranger Sami Baldauf who has done an excellent job.
The opener of this album (“Soi maininki hiljainen” written by Fridrich Burk) is a duet with the Finnish `tango king´ Kyösti Mäkimattila. Accompanied by decent strings, double bass, guitar, drums and bandoneon, both singers create an atmospheric slow tango, again transparently arranged by Sami Baldauf.
Indeed, several songs impress by unexpected and transparent orchestrations. Yona´s own song “Syyssävelmä” starts with a percussive string arrangement (and bandoneon) which brings Tom Waits´ “Bone Machine” to my mind (not the album, the instrument), leading to a well-balanced sing-along chorus which reminds us that the dark side is only out for a short break.
“En enää vaieta mä voi” invites to swing with a close harmony vocal trio (Siskot), accompanied by guitar, piano, bandoneon, bass and drums (and a jazzy trumpet solo), perfect for a Quickstepp.
Not all of these nine songs are originally Finnish tangos. "Sulle silmäni annan" is the Finnish version of the pop song "Ti regalo gli occhi miei" from the Italian singer Gabriella Ferri (1942-2004). Also the Italian-Belgian composer and pop singer Salvatore Adamo is credited for one song, or the Russian composer Nikita Bogoslovsky (1913-2004). However, particularly this last one challenges me to adjust to a (unnecessary) `lalalala´ choir…
In summary, I fully recommend this album which surprises with so many interesting facets of a beautiful singer. Give Yona´s tangos a chance to convince you, too.
KAIHO records (2014)