Sax man Timo Lassy, one of the leading lights in the vivid Helsinki jazz scene has released his second album on Ricky-Tick Records. The LP, “Round Two”, is a trip deeper into Lassy’s world, complete with the contemporary vocal jazz great José James featured on two of album’s eight tracks.

Timo Lassy has been a prominent figure in the field of contemporary jazz with firm roots and a strong rhythmic presence ever since the early 2000’s. His work with the Blue Note recording U-Street All Stars, the ever-so-successful The Five Corners Quintet, and of course his own ensemble, the Timo Lassy Band, has gained the man a steady international following in addition to domestic success. His 2007 debut “The Soul & Jazz of Timo Lassy” ranks among the most celebrated releases on the Ricky-Tick label, and Lassy himself, pre “Round Two”, is noted as a force to be reckoned with in any given setting.

The cast of characters on the new album is strictly A-list. The hard-hitting drummer on board, Teppo “Teddy Rok” Mäkynen also co-produced the album with Lassy, and the ensemble is larger than usually heard in both size and effect. Jukka Eskola on trumpet, Georgios Kontrafouris on piano, and Antti Lötjönen on bass are just some of the canny players heard on “Round Two”. The vocalist in residence in none the lesser in importance. In fact, he’s the go-to guy of 21st century vocal jazz, José James.

James, hailing from Minneapolis, connected with Timo Lassy whilst on the ranks of Nicola Conte’s jazz combo. During his brief visit to Helsinki, he both gave the album an undisputable edge on the two collabo tracks, ‘The More I Look at You’ and ‘Ya Dig’, and dipped into the local culture at large by visiting a traditional Finnish sauna.

Even with all the top-notch supporting cast, there is no denying that “Round Two” is Timo Lassy’s masterpiece thus far. Building on the success of his first album, Lassy takes big steps forward as a composer, arranger, producer, plus instrumentalist here. The material on the LP meanders effortlessly, while possessing the fingerprint of its creator all the way through. The able-bodied soloists have sufficient room for manouvre, while maintaining a compact and dynamic sonic presence at all times.

When considering the message of Timo Lassy and his music, one cannot omit the realisation of just how deeply immersed in innovation yet easily approachable his sound is. The roots of jazz with attitude are there, but the execution is distinctively 21st century without sounding selfrighteously retro.

This is pure high-quality jazz “post” the “modern” age.