Jan 24 2013
The ensemble led by Marios Takoushis and Gabriel Karapatakis thread the needle as they bring together Jazz and Mediterranean influences for Seven Miles East. This isn’t just two types of music mashed together. For within those two primary activators, the types of Jazz and the facts of regional musics through which the music is shined alter throughout this intriguing album. It’s a fine example of why the genre tag of World Jazz has become grossly inadequate. It’s also a fine example of how excellent Jazz is alive and kicking all across this planet.
Your album personnel: Marios Takoushis (piano), Gabriel Karapatakis (bass), Zacharias Spyridakis (Cretan lyra), Stelios Xydias (drums), David Lynch (sax), and George Krasides (clarinet).
“Three Steps Above” begins as a Balkan style of post-bop, offering punchy phrases and stop-and-go rhythms. But after that opening salvo, it slides right into a straight-ahead jazz sound right out of the USA. Up-tempo, with piano speeding along, then handing the baton off to sax, who continues the established. Then, suddenly the floor drops out. Bass and piano bring a hypnotic repetition which string begins to solo atop. The tone is an ambient one, and even with the beautifully ferocious bowing of Cretan Lyre, the influence sounds more of an Italian jazz influence than a Greek one. When sax re-enters, it’s long languid sounds, dreamy, paralleling that of strings. They pick up the intensity, and the ensemble rejoins the fray and they go out with a big finish that is informed by all the influences introduced throughout the song. It’s an impressive performance, finding a way to get all those influences to gel at the end. It’s that ‘threading the needle’ I referred to earlier.
Most of the tracks do, however, rest more squarely in the Greek music Jazz tradition. Album opener “Lazarus’ Smile” makes that apparent with lyra and piano trading folky phrases with some vocal harmonization and gentle crash of symbols. The Mediterranean influence is clear, and that sextet makes their opening statement one of drifting tranquility is reflective over the overall tenor of this album. “In Jasmine’s Words” is a nifty up-tempo piece, but makes sure to bring some lilting interludes to the party. And “Whispers of a Silent Mile” mines similar territory, but does so with a slower casual stroll. “Seven Moments in a Clear Day” is a contemplative ballad accented by strong folk brush strokes.
The album’s prettiest track, “Forgotten April’s Waltz,” shows some influence of the Switzerland Jazz sound, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise. There are some commonalities shared by the Swiss to the north, heading south down into regions of Italy, and then spreading across the Mediterranean… and the differentiation occurring in which local music the sound is expressed through. It’s also worth noting that Karapatakis studied in the Netherlands. In this instance of “Forgotten April’s Waltz”, it’s more Nordic than Grecian. Saxophone and clarinet flutter atop gentle splashes of percussion. Bass notes gurgle up into the higher registers, a simmer growing into a boil. Ecumenical piano accompaniment becomes fervent and leads the charge. Woodwinds re-enter, and the sextet zips right along, but still with an unhurried ease.
The album ends with a live track. Spirited and fun, and shows that their intriguing sound isn’t a false creation of studio craftsmanship. They sound live like they do in the recording booth.
This is one of those under-the-radar albums that shouldn’t be. Fans of ECM label recordings should be taking a hard look at this album.
The album is Self-Produced.
Jazz from the Cyprus, Greece scene.
Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artists.