Tassos Spiliotopoulos: Archipelagos (2010)
Since moving to London in 2000 to study music, Greek guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos has built a solid reputation as a technically gifted musician, building an impressive résumé of collaborations in a relatively short time, working with drummer/keyboardist Gary Husband, saxophonist Tim Garland, singer/multi-instrumentalist Eileen Hunter and guitarists John Parricelli, Mike Outram and John Etheridge. His debut as leader, Wait for Dusk (Konnex Records, 2006), featuring bassist Yaron Stavi, drummer Asaf Sirkis, and tenor saxophonist Robin Fincker, garnered positive reviews for its free-flowing lyricism and improvisation. In the intervening years Spiliotopoulos has gained further attention in Skirkis' trio, lending a distinctive sound to its two excellent CDs, The Monk (SAM Productions 2008) and Letting Go (Stonebird Productions, 2010), both also featuring Stavi. The obvious chemistry that exists between these three musicians is again apparent on Archipelagos.
The sound of the sea and gulls opens the title track, with Spiliotopoulos' little slide figures gliding sympathetically in what is, perhaps, a nostalgic nod to his homeland and its islands. Impressionistic, this is one of the shortest tracks and sets the mood for Spiliotopoulos' more elaborate compositions. On "The Quest," the trio is augmented by guitarist: Parricelli; Spiliotopolous tracing out the pretty melody, shadowed by Parricelli, before taking center stage with a fuzz-toned solo. Parricelli's cleaner, sharper tone follows, providing a pleasing contrast; both propelled by Stavi 's industry, and the ever-busy, ever-inventive Sirkis.
Spiliotopoulos' improvisations are like little bridges between the composed sections, though at times it is difficult to discern the line between the composed and the always melodic improvisations. Spilitopoulos' patient, delicate explorations on "Secret View" could almost be notated in their precision, or just as easily be created on the spur of the moment, as he tip-toes in the background with Sirkis when Stavi's melodic, unhurried voice comes to the surface, basking in the space, before the trio reunites to close out this impressive tune.
Trumpet veteran Kenny Wheeler guests on "Cosmic Motion," either side of Spiliotopoulos' extended solo, as Sirkis again provides the fire to stoke the band's engine. Wheeler brings a welcome new color to the musical palette, but his relaxed intervention is teasingly short and doesn't really shake up the dynamics.
The pace slows considerably on "The Prayer," a lovely, subtle blues where the trio seems to be playing in slow motion. It's a little like listening to a funereal version "In a Silent Way," sharing some of the meditative, melancholy of keyboardist Joe Zawinul's composition. Spiliotopoulos stretches out in freer style on the final two tracks see, first on the rockier "Out and About," and then on the more jazz-inflected "Stepping Stones," in both cases displaying impressive chops as the collective trio bristles with energy.
On Archipelagos, the highly respected Spiliotopoulos demonstrates that he is growing as a composer too, with well-crafted compositions that balance brittle lyricism with fiery improvisation. Hopefully it won't be another four years before his next offering.
Track Listing: Archipelagos; The Quest; Red Veil; Secret View; Cosmic Motion; Prayer; Out And About; Stepping Stones.
Personnel: Tassos Spiliotopoulos: guitar; Yaron Stavi: bass; Asaf Sirkis: drums; John Parricelli: guitar (2); Kenny Wheeler: trumpet (5).
Record Label: F-IRE Records