Jimi Tenor

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Sahkomies , 5/10
Europa , 4/10
Intervision , 6.5/10
Organism , 6.5/10
Out Of Nowhere , 6/10
Utopian Dream , 5/10
Higher Planes , 5/10
Beyond The Stars (2004), 4/10
Joystone (Ubiquity, 2007), 5/10
Inspiration Information Vol 4 (2009), 5/10
4th Dimension (2009), 5/10
Mystery of Aether (2012), 5/10
Itetune (2011), 5/10
Dub of Doom (2013), 5/10
Exocosmos (2013), 6/10
Mysterium Magnum (2015), 5/10
Saxentric (2016), 6/10
Order of Nothingness (2018), 4/10
Metamorpha (2020), 5/10
Aulos (2020), 4/10

Jimi Tenor (born Lassi Lehto) is a Finnish singer and multi-instrumentalist residing in Barcelona (Spain), also painter and photographer, who plays kitsch music to a techno beat with an approach that is the musical equivalent of Andy Warhol's pop art. Tenor sings (often in a sexy falsetto) mocking everybody from soul to glam.

The idea is intriguing but the albums are (at best) uneven. Tenor's best work is by far on singles.

The Shamans were Tenor on sax and vocals accompanied by a combo of trumpet, guitar, bass and drums. They released Total Capacity of 216,5 Litres (Euros, 1988), Diktafon (Euros, 1989), Mekanoid (Euros, 1990) and Fear of a Black Jesus (Euros, 1992) before Tenor decided to move to New York.

Eventually Tenor returned with a new sound and a new persona, somewhere in between Lydia Lunch's Queen Of Siam and David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust.

Or, better, somewhere between Barry White and Prince: Sahkomies (Sahko, 1994 - Warp, 1999) is a funny mixture of big-band jazz, mellow soul and orchestral pop.

The movie soundtrack Europa (Sahko, 1995 - Warp, 1999) boasts an expanding instrumentation

His first mature album, Intervision (Warp, 1997), shows the artist progressing on what will become his trademark features: falsetto singing in Can't Stay With You Baby, trumpet and sax in Outta Space, funk and jazz in Wiping Out. The album features his masterpiece, the synthpop novelty Sugardaddy, that manages to steal the attitude from Cramps and Suicide.

The EP Venera (Warp, 1998) prepared for the more refined sound of Organism (Warp, 1999), possibly his best album. Tenor croons like a madman and delivers the comic and anthemic disco of Year Of The Apocalypse and Total Devastation with the same impeccable and ostentatious composure of the Love Of Life Orchestra. Tenor increases the doses of jazz (My Mind, City Sleeps) and soul (Sleep), while surveying the field of 1960s tv soundtracks (Xinotepe Heat). And he has added one trick to his unfashionable repertory: Quincy Jones' jazz flute solos.

Tenor's soul obsession exploded on Out Of Nowhere (Warp, 2000), on which he often impersonates Curtis Mayfield. Accompanied by a 60-piece Polish orchestra, Tenor revises his routine and gives new meaning to everything he has recorded before. Hypnotic Drugstore grafts a psychedelic raga on his glam-funk shtick. Blood On Borscht takes on folk music and opera with heavy metal grandeur. Paint The Stars decomposes Broadway's show music. Night In Loimaa warps exotica. And Spell quotes Superfly. While not everything shines, Tenor's artsy ideology turns several tracks into stylistic puzzles.

Tenor is also involved in more serious (avantgarde) projects like Impostor Orchestra and City Of Women. As Impostor Orchestra, he released Heliopause (Sahko, 2000), a Sun Ra tribute.

Utopian Dream (Sahko, 2001) is less ambitious than its predecessor, more self-contained and less arranged. It also boasts some of his most bizarre takes on kitsch music (Utopian Dream, New World). When it works, this is amusing post-modern art. Too bad half of the disc is sheer filler, lounge crooning that sounds improvised in the studio. (It includes a new version of Paint The Stars).

Higher Planes (Kitty, 2003) refines the same ideas of the previous albums, perhaps in a lighter, simpler vein (Cosmic Dive).

Even more predictable was Beyond The Stars (Kitty, 2004), despite the cosmic theme of the title-track.

Tenor then turned to Afro-funk-jazz on Joystone (Ubiquity, 2007), featuring trumpeter Jukka Eskola and saxophonist Timo Lassy with the West African rhythm section Kabu Kabu (three Fela Kuti alumni), and on Inspiration Information Vol 4 (2009), a collaboration with legendary Fela Kuti's drummer Tony Allen. Kabu Kabu helped him again on 4th Dimension (2009) and Mystery of Aether (2012), whereas jazz percussionist Abdissa Assefa was his partner on Itetune (2011).

Tenor formed Cola & Jimmu with US-born singer Nicole Willis, a project documented on Enigmatic (2013) and Give To You My Love And Devotion (2014). They then resurrected the Soul Investigators, that had recorded Keep Reachin Up (2005), for Tortured Soul (2013) and Happiness in Every Style (2015).

After Dub of Doom (2013) with Icelandic reggae band Hjalmar, Tenor penned the Sun Ra-influenced mysterious space jazz of Exocosmos (2013). He recorded Mysterium Magnum (2015) with veteran Finnish big band UMO Jazz Orchestra. His jazz phase culminated with Saxentric (2016).

The keyboard-heavy Order of Nothingness (2018), in a trio with percussionists Ekow Alabi Savage and Max Weissenfeldt, steered decisively towards the dancefloor.

He also collaborated with Freestyle Man (deep-house producer Klas Lindblad) on the EPs Sleepover (2017) and Are We It? (2019), basically preludes to Metamorpha (2020), a collaboration with house producer Maurice Fulton, an album of silly instrumental disco-pop but containing one of the gems of his career: the flute-driven jam The Duel.

Aulos (2020) is an album of orchestral Latin-funk music a` la Kid Creole And The Coconuts and bizarre prog-rock a` la Frank Zappa (Ten Dimensions).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Andrea Marengo)

Jimi Tenor è un cantante e polistrumentista finlandese residente a Barcellona (Spagna), nonché pittore e fotografo, che suona musica kitsch su pulsazioni techno con un approccio che è l'equivalente musicale della pop art di Andy Warhol. Tenor canta (spesso con un falsetto sensuale) imitando svariati artisti soul e glam.

L'idea è intrigante ma gli album (nei momenti migliori) non lo sono altrettanto. I lavori migliori di Tenor sono di gran lunga contenuti nei singoli.

Gli Shamans erano composti da Tenor al sassofono e alla voce e un piccolo complesso di tromba, chitarra, basso e batteria. Pubblicarono Total Capacity Of 216,5 Litres (Euros, 1988), Diktafon (Euros, 1989), Mekanoid (Euros, 1990) e Fear Of A Black Jesus (Euros, 1992) prima che Tenor si trasferisse a New York.

A volte Tenor tornava in scena con nuove sonorità e una nuova identità ispirata in qualche modo da quelle proposte su Queen Of Siam di Lydia Lunch e Ziggy Stardust di David Bowie.

O, per meglio dire, da Barry White e Prince: Sahkomies (Sahko, 1994 – Warp, 1999) è una divertente miscela di orchestra jazz, soul languido e pop orchestrale.

La colonna sonora del film Europa (Sahko, 1995 – Warp, 1999) vanta una strumentazione estesa.

Il suo primo album maturo, Intervision (Warp, 1997), mostra l'artista progredire in quelli che saranno i suoi marchi di fabbrica: cantato in falsetto su Can't Stay With You Baby, tromba e sassofono su Outta Space, funk e jazz su Wiping Out. L'album presenta il suo capolavoro, la novelty synthpop di Sugardaddy, che ruba l'attitudine ai Cramps e ai Suicide.

L'EP Venera (Warp, 1998) anticipava il suono più ricercato di Organism (Warp, 1999). Tenor urla come un folle sprigionando gli inni disco music di Year Of The Apocalypse e Total Devastation con la stessa compostezza impeccabile e ostentata della Love Of Life Orchestra. Tenor incrementa le quantità di jazz (My Mind, While City Sleep) e Soul (Sleep), esplorando nei terreni delle colonne sonore televisive degli anni sessanta (Xinotepe Heat) e aggiungendo un trucco al suo repertorio fuori moda: brani di Quincy Jones per flauto solista.

L'ossessione di Tenor per il soul esplose su Out Of Nowhere (Warp, 2000), nel quale impersona spesso Curtis Mayfield. Scortato da un'orchestra polacca di sessanta elementi, Tenor revisiona la sua routine dando nuovo significato a ciò che ha registrato in precedenza. Hypnotic Drugstore innesta un raga psichedelico nella sua vena glam-funk. Blood On Borscht si cimenta nella musica folk e nell'opera con la maestosità dell'heavy metal. Paint The Stars decompone la musica da spettacolo di Broadway. Night In Loimaa distorce l'exotica. And Spell cita Superfly. Benché non tutto brilli, l'ideologia artistica di Tenor trasforma numerose tracce in puzzle stilistici.

Tenor è anche coinvolto in progetti (d'avanguardia) più seri: quali Impostor Orchestra e City Of Women. Heliopause (Sahko, 2000), un tributo a Sun Ra, venne pubblicato con il nome d'arte Impostor Orchestra.

Utopian Dream (Sahko, 2011) è meno ambizioso del suo predecessore, più indipendente e meno arrangiato. Esso vanta anche alcune delle sue riprese più bizzarre nella musica kitsch (Utopian Dream, New World). Quando compone, egli si diletta con l'arte post-moderna. Peccato che metà del disco sia puramente riempitiva, il cantato lounge sembra improvvisato in studio. (Il disco include una nuova versione di Paint The Stars).

Higher Planes (Kitty, 2003) raffinava le stesse idee degli album precedenti con una vena forse più semplice e leggera (Cosmic Dive).

Ancora più prevedibile era Beyond The Stars (Kitty, 2003), se si esclude il tema della title track.

Tenor si convertì più tardi all'afro-funk-jazz su Joystone (Ubiquity, 2007), assistito dalla sezione ritmica Kabu Kabu ( composta da due ex alunni di Fela Kuti).

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