Greek saxophonist Dimitri Vassilakis' third album for Candid is a one-course, big plate feast of rugged, gruff-toned tenor saxophone and high-torque bass and drums. It swings hard from start to finish, with only the halfway point "Soul Eyes" providing a pause, and does both Vassilakis and his primary influence, Sonny Rollins, proud. It was released in Europe this past fall and will be out in the US shortly.
In his liner notes, Vassilakis cites Rollins' Freedom Suite with Oscar Pettiford and Max Roach as the chief inspiration for Parallel Lines. The new album is built around a 25-minute suite of three original compositions"Parallel Lines," "Little One," and "Ocean," recorded in July '03to which Vassilakis returned in the studio a year later, taking bass loops from the originals and overdubbing new saxophone and drum parts, creating shorter versions which he has retitled with the suffix "Groove." The closing track, "The Drum Think," recorded in early '05, is a saxophone/drums duet which revisits both the original and the "Groove" trilogies. Each track at some point refers back to the same four-note chord in the key of C.
If all this sounds a little drawn out, contrived, and monotonous, it is none of those things: the music is fresh, organic, and energised. Ideas tumble out of Vassilakis' tenor (he plays soprano only occasionally)and there's a depth to his tone which reminds you, happily, of Rollins and, while Vassilakis rarely uses split notes or harmonics, another notable Rollins descendant, David S. Ware. Essiet Okon Essiet and Jeff Tain Watts both contribute passionate solos (on "Ocean" and "Little One" respectively), but most of the album is Vassilakis', and he strides out with vigour and sustained invention.
A very fine album from a player who is only now approaching first maturity.
Personnel: Dimitri Vassilakis: tenor and soprano saxophones, drums (7-10), vocals (9); Essiet Okon Essiet: bass (1-9); Jeff Tain Watts: drums (1-7).