Maria Kalaniemi/JPP | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Maria Kalaniemi/JPP


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Maria Kalaniemi and the group JPP are both in the vanguard of Finland's contemporary folk music scene, which has revitalized stagnant traditions by ignoring stylistic boundaries. JPP (Jarvelan Pikkupelimannit, or "Little Fiddlers of Jarvela," a mouthful even for natives) play Finnish folk tunes infused with Celtic, Swedish, and classical influences. The group's lineup--harmonium, stand-up bass, and four violins--may appear cumbersome, but at heart JPP are a dance band, combining the well-drilled precision of a crack chamber music ensemble with the energetic drive of a big band. For more than a decade JPP have been filling dance halls in Finland with a lively mix of quadrilles, waltzes, tangos, and polskas (an Eastern European form similar to the Scottish reel). No stranger to the dance hall repertoire herself, Maria Kalaniemi is a master of the five-row accordion. On her recent self-titled CD (available, like JPP's Devil's Polska, from Xenophile/Green Linnet), Kalaniemi shows a quieter side, using her extraordinary command of the instrument to explore a multitude of voices and textures that range far beyond the boundaries of traditional folk music. When she performs a tango, her austere harmonies and passionate delivery recall the late Astor Piazzolla. Kalaniemi has the nerve to arrange a 17th-century polska for accordion and Tanzanian thumb piano and the sensitivity to pull it off. Saturday, 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage; 525-7793.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jouka Lehtola.

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