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Nickos Kapilidis & The Jazz Utopia: Arothymian

Dan McClenaghan By

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Like many jazz fans, I've always got my ears open for a "new" sound, music grounded in tradition that still manages to push the borders. Arothymian qualifies. Mixing melodic and rhythmic elements of Greek music with the harmonic colors found in jazz and contemporary sounds, Nickos Kapilidis & The Jazz Utopia have come up with a fascinating, novel approach.

The lineup—soprano sax, guitar, bass, and drums—isn't out of the ordinary, but the way the Jazz Utopia brings it together is. Vasso Dimitriou's virtuosic guitar playing catches the ear right off. He creates electric orchestral washes of sound, slightly metallic in tone, light in character, and combines with Takis Paterelis' driving soprano sax sound for some vibrant unison interludes. The band makes energetic music, tinged with an exotic Greek feeling, with lots of odd rhythms, some rock leanings, and consistently engaging melodies that give way to creative free-flowing improvisations.

The set opens with "Sunday Morning Coffee," a fittingly caffeinated sound, full speed ahead, Dimitriou's guitar chiming at the beginning as the band kicks into a churning forward momentum. "Arothymian," a Pontian word meaning "longing and nostalgia" (a Kapilidis-penned tune, for his parents) feels introspective and a bit sad; and "Minhel" has a lively, sharp-edged tone over a fluid, organic groove, with Takis Paterelis blowing a sweet tone on soprano.

Some of the most interesting new sounds I've encountered this year.

Visit Nickos Kapilidis on the web.


Track Listing: Sunday Morning Coffee; Happy End; Enan Aima Eimes; Arothymian; Minhel; Anna; The Great Journey; Odd Song.

Personnel: Takis Paterelis: soprano saxophone; Vasso Dimitriou: guitars, tzouras, effects; Nikos Hadjopoulos: bass; Nickos Kapilidis: drums.

Title: Arothymian | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Muse.gr

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