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Album Review

Yako Trio: OdesSea

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Yako Trio: OdesSea
Having a wonderful new record from Greece come to the fore is a reminder of how random it all is. There are so many works of brilliance out there, all over the world, that no matter how hard one tries to uncover every stone, it is impossible to come close. It is necessary to be discerning. This album needs to be shared with as many serious jazz ears as possible.

OdesSea is composed and performed by the Yako Trio, which features composer/pianist Leandros Pasias, composer/double bassist Vargelis Vrachnos, and drummer George Klountzos Chrysidis. The compositions range from melodious to conversational and interactive to introspective, and more. Musicianship is excellent.

The project is a tribute to the Greek composer and musician Yannis Konstantinidis. His work is the key element in the formation of the trio. Like many jazz composers, Konstantinidis was heavily influenced by classical composers such as Debussy, Ravel and Bartok. He is known in particular for preserving traditional unregistered Greek music through the compositional process. The members of the Yako Trio have a deep knowledge and admiration of Konstantinidis' arrangements of familiar melodies and rhythms of Greek traditional music. The trio was formed to experiment with his work and reframe it with their own musical perspective. The name Yako is culled from the first two letters of his first name and the first two letters of his last name.

OdesSea is the trio's second record, following the release of Ode to Yannis (Self Released, 2018). Their sound continues to rely heavily on jazz improvisation. There is much more, however, in their rebirth of tradition. This new six song package features three compositions from Pasias, and three from Vrachnos. Pasias penned the first two dazzling songs, the record beginning with "The Call." The sharp and melodious energy is immediate and engaging. Pasias was very strong, but not overwhelming. He, nor his bandmates, were never forcing it or overplaying. The music, while with a lot of depth, seemed to flow effortlessly. A fine example of that is guest James Wylie on his alto saxophone. Wylie flies with ease to a cleverly gradual crescendo that then slides like butter into a creatively designed solo from Pasias. The rhythm section of Vrachnos and Chrysdis were well more than pocket friendly. On "The Call," Vrachnos does not hesitate to take his bow to his double bass strings with a finely unique edge of tonality. He and Chyrsidis pushed a groove into crisp changes, while the Pasias arrangement led us into beautiful diversities of trio and quartet. Here, and throughout the record, the pulsating vibe of a jazz trio is distinctive in measure to the sweet changes brought upon in quartet.

The title track follows, and like the first Pasias piece, ranges from a steady core. One of the key branches grows with passion by a second guest saxophonist, Nicolas Masson. Masson played soprano on "OdesSea," and later on the record played tenor. While every tune was a quartet at some point, with either Wylie or Masson in the ensemble, again the arrangements allowed plenty of space for the definitive sound of the trio to get deeply rooted. This tune is a great example of that, with the trio imaginatively exploring.

Vrachnos brings a slightly different perspective to his composing. He and Pasias compliment each other extremely well. They take alternate routes and have their own individual methodology that together creates a certain dynamic. There is a connectivity in place that is nowhere more noticeable than in the Vrachnos composition "Afromacedonian." Vrachnos is a double funky bassist on this one, with the trio plus one (Wylie) joining in on the vibrant conversation. The band's collective improvisational skills shined. Turning on a dime, Vrachnos wrote a soft and elegant song that was painted on an entirely different canvas. Vrachnos wrote what is, at least in part, a showcase piece for Pasias, who poured his emotions into "Sand." The piece features Masson's graceful tenor saxophone.

A third Vrachnos offering stretches the diversity with the presence of pristine imagery. The dream world goes to places beyond one's conscious imagination. "Indian Dream" is somehow both soft and bold. It is truly beguiling. The complexities of this magnificent composition and musicianship proved to be rewarding. The aforementioned slight compositional diversity added a dash of the unknown as to what was coming next. Moreover, it is impressive that regardless of approach they most often end up drinking from the same cup by a song's conclusion anyway.

Song sequencing can be of crucial importance. The astonishing head trip of "Indian Dream" would seem a proper landing point. Certainly a journey to ponder. Pasias, however, next brought forth his third composition. "Lullaby" is broadly fluent in jazz vocabulary. So much so that it defies mere words to describe it. The mood enhancement of "Indian Dream" perhaps plays a part. Conversely, only another visionary masterpiece could possibly follow it. "Indian Dream" indeed takes one on a far away and distant journey. "Lullaby" then ushers the listener into a hypnotic state. The odds are strong that a serious jazz instrumental listener will dig this well-crafted modern jazz treatment, as well as the introduction and education to a noteworthy period of music past.

Track Listing

The Call; OdesSea; Afromacedonian Dance; Sand; Indian Dream; Lullaby.

Personnel

Yako Trio: band/orchestra; Leandros Pasias: piano; James Wylie: saxophone, soprano; Nicolas Masson: saxophone; Giorgos Klountzos-Chrysidis: drums; Vangelis Vrachnos: bass, acoustic.

Album information

Title: OdesSea | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Fair Weather Friends


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