186

Charles Lloyd / Maria Farantouri: Athens Concert

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Charles Lloyd / Maria Farantouri: Athens Concert
What might on the surface appear as a meeting of disparate minds—jazz with Byzantine airs—ignores the fact that multi-reed/woodwind player Charles Lloyd has been embracing the music of the world for half a century with singular conviction and grace. Greek classical singer Maria Farantouri is herself a musical adventurer and risk taker; over the course of fifty years, she has collaborated with guitarist John Williams, Turkish composer Zulfu Livaneli, Cuban guitarist/composer Leo Brouwer, electronic legend Gabriele Evangelista and saxophonist Jan Garbarek. For over a decade too, she has played and recorded with pianist Henning Schmiedt, saxophonist/flautist Volker Schlott and cellist Jens Naumilkat, reinterpreting Greek music from the Byzantine to traditional rembetiko, or urban blues. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Farantouri and Lloyd's outstanding quartet sound so perfectly attuned to each other on this entrancing recording.

Athens Concert was the logical extension of a collaboration that began with Farantouri joining Lloyd on stage to sing his composition "Blow Wind" in 2003. Here, they revisit the tune, with pianist Jason Moran's crystalline lines, Lloyd's prayer-like ruminations and Eric Harland's washing cymbals providing the perfect foil for Farantouri's enchanting vibrato. "Requiem" is a gentle swinger, with more than a hint of "Autumn Leaves." Farantouri's yearning vocal has a bluesy warmth here, and again on the gorgeous "Voyage to Cythera"; it's not difficult to see why Lloyd is reminded of the spirit of singer Billie Holiday when Farantouri pours out her soul like this.

The other Lloyd tracks are a stirring quartet rendition of the gospel-tinged "Dream Weaver," with Moran again shining on a percussive yet melodic solo; and the elegiac "Prayer," where Farantouri and Lloyd's caressing voices conjure an ethereal beauty common to much devotional music, underpinned by Socratis Sinopoulos's aching lyra, which leads the ensemble into the epic, three-part Greek Suite. The Greek traditional music is arranged by additional pianist Takis Farazis, who was part of bassist/composer Yiorgos Fakanas's progressive group, ISKRA in the 1980s. He deserves much credit for the resultant magic exhibited in this Old World/New World blend.

At forty minutes, the eleven segments of the three suites make for a powerful collective statement. Haunting lyricism and gravitas dance around each other in beautifully shifting tides, and Lloyd's sparingly used flute and taragato combine with lyra to add a further dimension to the music. Farantouri conveys a great range of emotions, from lament to incantation, and from operatic drama to unbridled joy. Lloyd, Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers and Harland all enjoy their moments in the sun, but it is the empathetic quartet support of Farantouri which impresses most, buoying her and lifting her—and the ensemble, in turn— to transcendent heights of expression.

If the best music is experienced live, then those who attended the Odeon of Herodes Atticus—at the foot of the Acropolis, Athens—to witness Lloyd's New Quartet, Farantouri, Sinopoulos and Farazis one summer evening, can consider themselves truly fortunate; the music captured here is sublime and, like the best art, is surely timeless in its appeal.

Track Listing

CD1: Kratissa ti zoi mou; Dream Weaver; Blow Wind; Requiem; Greek Suite, Part I: Hymnos stin Ayia Triada, Epano sto xero homa, Messa stous paradissious kipous; Taidi sta Kythera. CD2: Prayer; Greek Suite, Part II: Vlefaro mou, Margaritarenia, Thlassaki mou; Greek Suite, Part III: Epirotiko meroloi, Kægomæ kæ sigoliano, Mori kontoula lemonia, Alismono kæ hæromæ, Tou hel' to kastron; ZYanni mou.

Personnel

Maria Farantouri: voice; Charles Lloyd: tenor saxophone, flute, taragato; Jason Moran: piano; Reuben Rogers: double-bass; Eric Harland: drums; Socratis Sinopoulos: lyra; Takis Farazis: piano (CD1#5-7, CD2#2-10).

Album information

Title: Athens Concert | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: ECM Records

Post a comment about this album

Watch

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Django-shift
Django-shift
Rez Abbasi
Read West Meets East
West Meets East
Adam Shulman Septet
Read Fela's First
Fela's First
Fela Ransome Kuti & His Highlife Rakers
Read The Rise Up
The Rise Up
Mehmet Ali Sanlikol
Read New York Moment
New York Moment
JC Hopkins Biggish Band
Read Pollinator
Pollinator
Matt Ulery
Read Hug!
Hug!
Matt Wilson Quartet

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.