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Jazzin' Around Europe

Talos Jazz Festival 2003 (Italy)

By Published: October 1, 2003

I’m partial to Ayse Tutuncu’s piano-percussion group, and I was indeed involved in their invitation to the festival, but I feel I have to share again my love for this unique group – piano, bass clarinet and four percussion – firmly led by the diminutive but clear-minded Ayse, whose compositions and arrangements (pieces by Carla Bley and Debussy, Turkish tangos and Corea studies) show an equal ease with jazz and classical. The “ethnic” element is just one among many, and the structures are loose enough to leave space to the inventive improvisations by Oguz Buyukberber on bass clarinet and to the always amazing combinations of grooves from the percussion section. Backboned by the supple drums of Cengiz Baysal, the three percussionists Saruhan Erim, Serdar Gonenci and Timucin Gorer displayed a whole range of effects and sounds, from the classic wooden spoons to metal sheets.

The overtly political-poetic “Kapilar-Doors” was complemented by an Italian translation of the words – “We want the doors to be opened” – while “Passages,” a new composition, takes inspiration from a Monteverdi theme.

Vassilis Tsabropoulos’ piano offering was very close to the ECM Akroasis CD, with its merits and limits. A beautifully clear sound, a very interesting choice of themes – Greek Orthodox lithurgical melodies – but a less than gripping improvised, dynamic development. I still prefer his trio with Arild Andersen.

Savina Yannatou is also recording for ECM, but her set was anything but static. Backed by a strong group – Kostas Vomvolos was especially impressive in his effortlessy alternating on kanun, accordion and kalimba – la Yannatou weaved her magic on the audience, performing Italian regional songs with ease, invention and a very convincing accent. Her voice ranges from deep undertones to the highest overtones, colors quickly changing from the soft and warm to the guttural, almost menacing. Her encore moved away from the Mediterranean, sending the captivated audience home with a dreamy Caribbean lilt in their ears. A strong and meaningful conclusion for a Festival which went through rocky times but must carry through and expand his role of a major regional forum for Euro-jazz and forward-looking experiments in musical language, including again the precious work of Minafra and his generation.

Visit Talos Jazz Festival on the web.

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