Recordings of traditional folk material tend to evoke the past rather than intensify the present. In their attempts to resurrect and preserve the music of a bygone era, the performers risk becoming curators at some aural museum, where the smell of dust and mold lingers obtrusively in the air. Greek singer Savina Yannatou and her colleagues here are a different matter entirely. This music is so vividly present
that no distance seems to separate us from the worldview of the songs. The lyrics here translate as: "A year has passed with no word of my beloved. The wind blows from the mountains. The rivers bring no news. Has your heart turned to ice." And I can't help being reminded of that venerable poem about the Western wind, from an anonymous source—probably some sailor or traveler—that comes across as ageless, without date of passport, concluding with the sentiments: "Christ, if my love were in my arms, and I in my bed again!" Yannatou has a delicate voice, yet with hidden reserves of strength, more psychological perhaps than a question of physical equipment. Her accompanists are very much in synch, and when they fall into a stately 12/8 rhythm behind her, it is almost as if a sad and stately procession has walked into the room.
"Of course, this can't be jazz. The musicians show too much respect for the composition. They play with too much fastidious control of the details, too much self-effacement. And the cello, of course, is a dead giveaway."
"Whoa, this can't be classical music, can it? You can't write down this stuff, with its free spirit and the sense of spontaneous cohesion among the performers. And the percussionist, of course, is a dead giveaway."
Welcome to the beguiling musical landscapes of Vassilis Tsabropoulos, a brilliant artist who doesn't care much about categories. He is too committed to his meticulous universe of sound colors. His music exists on its own terms, and invites us to participate or not, as we see fit. The songs may sound simple enough. But in our narrow world of pigeonholing and closely defined formats, Tsabropoulos's flaunting of the fashionable and contemporary is dangerous stuff. The jazz police (and classical music police, too) will need to work overtime to keep this CD under wraps. If too many people heard it, it might attract a crowd. And who knows where that
Greek singer Savina Yannatou can do some amazing things with her voice. This track, ostensibly dealing with dragon slaying (sorry, my Greek is a little rusty), showcases her instrument against a simple backdrop of acoustic bass, violin and accordion. Yannatou sings melodies that swoop up from their anchor notes as if taking flight. With childlike chirps, shimmering melodies, whispers and shrieks, my ears thought of Joanna Newsome, Diamanda Galas and Meredith Monk. Now there
is an eclectic combination!
What's quite amazing about the progression of this piece is that it obviously tells a musical story, even if the words remain opaque to most listeners.
September 13, 2008 · 0 comments
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