Way up in Porvoo, Finland, Esa Pietilä, the leader of “Direct”, has a tenor tone suitable for framing, partaking of the Coltrane and post-Coltrane stream but also icily ruminative a la Jan Garbarek, without dipping into any untoward ECMism. The rhythm section alone on this trio date would prevent that. Take “Mind Hunt,” for example: bassist Krokfors quotes “Milestones” (the second one) while drummer Ounaskari plays with as many hands as Elvin Jones at his most ferociously exuberant, and Pietilä manages to evoke this highly-charged Sixties atmosphere while never resorting to the tired bag of tricks that so few have been able to resist before him. Even his reentry after a bass/drum solo on “Headway” strongly recalls the Master’s reappearance after a similar interlude on “Alabama,” he doesn’t allow himself to fall into any of the more obvious traps. Also, throughout this disc he seems to decline to take the bait offered by Krokfors and Ounaskari in particular, although the choices he does make complement their goading and churning just fine without making this into an outright Aylerfest. And his tone is gorgeous, particularly on the ringing “Direct” and the resonating “Point Zero”.

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