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Dimitri Vassilakis: Parallel Lines

Mark F. Turner By

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Parallel Lines—an album that's filled with exquisite musicianship, fire, and hard-swinging grooves—could justifiably put Greek saxophonist Dimitrios Vassilakis on the who's who list of world-class reed players. Born in Athens, Greece and living in London, he is also an educator pursing a PhD while teaching and lecturing in the Music Department at Makedonia University in Thessalonica.

Vassilakis' music theory and concepts are vitalized when he is joined by drummer Jeff "Tain Watts and bassist Essiet Okon Essiet. He brings a Coltrane-like modernism to his sax playing, which is marked by consummate training and imbued with a spirit of freedom and invention. The ten original selections on the recording consist of six trio compositions, three "groove" reworks, and a duet where Vassilakis plays both sax and drums. Each one showcases the musicians' abilities.

Essiet and "Tain" obliterate the jungle/drum 'n' bass motif on "Parallel Lines," mixing a funky bass, polyrhythms, and hard bop changes as Vassilakis provides dueling sax solos. The corresponding "Parallel Lines Groove" contains a loop of the original bass pattern, now enhanced by Vassilakis playing the drum section and adding spoken word with a hip-hop flavor. Both approaches have satisfying results.

But the music also moves along the lines of strong jazz improvisation and a deep knowledge of history, paying homage to Sonny Rollins' classic Freedom Suite; the trio plays with intensity and joy on the street party-like "Ocean and the heartfelt ballad "Soul Eyes.

The "groove pieces, recorded a year after the originals, serve as a synopsis of the album. They are not just variations—they also show another dimension of Vassilakis' musicality. Witness, for example, his formidable drum work and creativity on the impressive drum/sax improvisation "The Drum Think. From beginning to end, each composition fits into an outstanding set which could also be dubbed the Dimitrios Vassilakis "Groove Suite.

Track Listing: Parallel Lines; Little One; Ocean; Swinging Second; Soul Eyes; James; Ocean Groove; Little One Groove; Parallel Lines Groove; The Drum Think.

Personnel: Dimitri Vassilakis: tenor and soprano saxophones, drums (7-10), vocals (9); Essiet Okon Essiet: bass (1-9); Jeff Tain Watts: drums (1-7).

Title: Parallel Lines | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Candid Records

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