Something Different: Tania Giannouli & Paulo Chagas – “Forest Stories”


Tania Giannouli & Paulo Chagas - "Forest Stories"A duo collaboration between wood instrument specialist Paulo Chagas and pianist Tania Giannouli, Forest Stories is a set of improvisational pieces that only give the impression of an album divided into individual songs… the album possesses a one-take presence, as if not just the music was created in the moment, but also the silences between the “songs.”  Ultimately, it’s the intimacy derived from this type of spontaneous creation that makes music like this so embraceable.

Your album personnel:  Paulo Chagas (alto & soprano saxophones, bass & sopranino clarinets, flute, bamboo flute) and Tania Giannouli (piano).

As a going concern, this is an album that effectively maintains a languid presence.  Sometimes the artists stir things up a bit, but the occasional bursts of dissonance and clashes of notes are akin to ripples in a calm pool of water.

Opening track “Step By Step” establishes that languorous tone.  Piano whispers soft words to bass clarinet when it hums a tune.  Piano murmurs placating notes to bass clarinet when it raises up and shouts.  The song ends with a dissolve into silence from which it began.

“Afternoon Forest Valse” begins with an abrasive tone.  Soprano sax brings some tea kettle steam.  Piano restricts its movements to a small area, while Chagas flutters about it.

“This Beautiful Hard Way” has Giannouli more active on piano, running up and down the length of a melody.  Chagas, now on flute, pokes its head up and speaks at effective intervals.  The beauty of this song isn’t easy to capture, yet has that unmissable quality of a glistening object in light.

“Is This Forever” and “Instead of Clouds” double back onto some territory already covered.  Piano and sax keep in-step with one another, offering thoughtful statements that just hang in the air.  Sax gets a bit querulous.  Piano grows pensive.

While most tracks have an airy motion to them, there are moments of staggered fluidity, like the sharp strikes of piano and flute shrieks of “Spring’s Chronic.”  And “In the Deepest Night” quavers with suspense and dark mystery.

The album ends with “The Way Back Home,” the closest thing to a conventional tune.  Also, the album’s prettiest moment.  A delicate melody, with expressions on sax and piano that respect the fragile state of things.  And, in that it is preceded by seven tracks of a sparse dissonance and formless geometry, the closing song is made more marvelous by the way it allows the album’s various elements to coalesce in its final moments.

Released on the Rattle Records label.

Album cover by Andreas.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: MP3