After the album “My Working Class Hero,” dedicated to John Lennon and “Tears for Esbjörn,” a homage to the influential Swedish pianist, “How Long Is Now?” puts the spotlight fairly and squarely back on to the Finnish pianist, composer and life-force Iiro Rantala. This new trio album with Peter Erskine (drums) and Lars Danielsson (bass) constitutes a many-faceted summing-up of a happy and resoundingly creative phase of Rantala’s life.
Rantala says of the new album: “I think this is one of those ‘composition is the king’ kind of projects. The theme, the writing, the mood of the composition are the most important things.” Seven of the thirteen compositions here are by Rantala himself, three tracks by the other players in the trio, and three more are by others who, in their different ways, have helped to construct Rantala’s appealing musical personality.
Rantala has described clearly what he wants to do as a composer: to write “simple melodies that people can remember,” and there are several fine examples with catchy hooks on this album. For example, Rantala has set out to capture the contrasting personalities of each of his two young sons, and convey the evident delight they both bring their father. Rantala describes them: “Bruno likes simple things in life. Sleeping and eating. So the tune is simple. Only 3 chords: G, am7 and D7.” And what about his brother Topi? “Topi is more bossy, there is more edge and drama with him. So, the tune is in the minor and has some more of a feeling of danger.” Perhaps that danger might be found in rock arenas, because “Topi” has inspired a riotously flamboyant Little Richard-style piano solo from Rantala, and Danielsson plays an arco solo which sounds uncannily like a wailing rock guitar. There is also joy in lively, buoyant tunes such as “A Nut” and “Snapchat.”