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Manala is the metaphysical realm of the Finnish underworld referenced throughout Dr. Elias Lönnrot’s collection of traditional oral songs(runot) published as poetry in the Kalevala. It is both a metaphor and reflection of a world view and cosmic order that inspires an inherent feeling of mystery throughout the texts of this tradition. It is a place where knowledge and song successfully emerge from dark waters to aid in the world of the living.
This is the second iteration in a series which began in 2014 with the Otherworld Cycle (Edgetone Records EDT4161) as a cultural research project into Romus’ Finnish heritage. Manala is a joint musical project built upon a thematic framework featuring compositions by Rent Romus and Heikki Koskinen using elements of the Finnish pentameter rhythmic layers intertwined with melodic themes as well as graphic and improvisational components expressed in American Jazz.. In addition to Finnish mythology Romus expanded his research related to lore connected through the Uralic cultural language chain from the Baltic shores of the Livonian Coast the to the Northeast Arctic of Siberia and the Northern Sápmi (Sami).
Rent Romus - alto & soprano saxophones, flutes, kantele, bells
Heikki Koskinen - tenor recorder, E-trumpet, flutes, kantele
Joshua Marshall - tenor saxophone tenor & soprano saxophones, flute Gabby Fluke-Mogul - violin
Tom Weeks - baritone & alto saxophones
David Samas - voice, han, prepared frame drum, song stones, cocoa pod, bells, waterphone, animal calls, Aztec death whistle, water
Cheryl E. Leonard - Spiny, Baby Driftwood Pipe Organ Limpet Shell Spine, bowl of sand, stone slabs, clam shells mussel shells, mobiles: (driftwood, obsidian needles, petrified wood, crab claws, shells) feathers, fish vertebrae, Japanese bowl gongs
Mark Clifford - vibraphone
Safa Shokrai - double bass
Max Judelson - double bass
Timothy Orr - drums, percussion
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"From start to finish Manala lives up to its genesis as programmatic expression that also showcases top-flight playing. With “Journey to Manala” and elsewhere on the disc though, the composition and arrangements prove that knowledge of the folk tales on which the program is based isn’t needed for full appreciation."
- Ken Waxman, Jazzword
"The abundant music played in "Manala" is not only the personal roots of Romus and Koskinen, but a journey that traces the primitive memory of the birth of all humanity. That is the true pleasure of visiting the underworld of music." - Takeshi Goda Takeda, JazzTokyo
"...strikingly vivid, deeply textured music that evokes stark landscapes and heroic deeds...the music seems to emerge right out of the Finnish soil."
- Andrew Gilbert, San Francisco Classical Voice
"The journey to Manala turned out to be not any random knocking on the gates of Tuonela (Underworld), but more of a journey into the depths of the mind, somewhere very deep at the bottom of the soul, and down to the quintessential roots." - Juri Ojala, Karelian Cultural News, Joensuu Finland
"Manala thinks big. It brings an 11-piece jazz mini-orchestra to celebrate Rent Romus’ Finnish heritage, and while the theme is related to folklore about the underworld, the mood is bright and welcoming. It feels like a joyous personal statement from someone who has made a journey and discovered wonderful things along the way." - Craig Matsumoto, Memory Select