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Savina Yannatou & Primavera en Salonico: Songs Of An Other

Budd Kopman By

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The mesmerizing Songs Of An Other is the second ECM studio recording for vocalist Savina Yannatou and the instrumental group Pimavera en Salonico. Their first ECM release, Terra Nostra (2003), was live and not actually recorded, but licensed by ECM, which led to their first studio ECM recording, Sumiglia (2005).

Pimavera en Salonico has been together for fifteen years with basically the same members, and creates arrangements of traditional or folk music from lands in a great arc from Spain through Southern Italy and Greece, the Balkans, the Caucasus and back down through the Levant. However, rather than being a performing museum, Yannatou (the lead vocalist), Kostas Vomvolos (the main arranger and music director), and Primavera en Salonico extract the emotional essence of each piece to create what are essentially mini-dramas.

This collective have so far progressed over the years in the direction of increasing improvisation that on Songs Of An Other, the distinction between Yannatou as lead singer in front, and the supporting background group, has been virtually eliminated. While this growth is quite audible between the albums, the current release stands on its own as an amazing performance which documents each virtuoso contributing to the whole.

Although the music's basic sound cannot be separated from its origins in scales, rhythms and instrumentation, the performances, starting with Yannatou's, seem so strong as to create a sound and aesthetic that is sui generis. As each track proceeds, the group manages to create a unique sound and emotional world that raises the music above and beyond its origins to the realm of "just" music - and since improvisation is a major component - you can also call it "jazz."

Vocalist Yannatou is naturally heard out front; however, her transparent emotionality through phrasing and pitch control, especially when combined with her extended techniques which include controlled shrieks and moans, transform her voice in another instrument that is part of the ensemble.

Not knowing the languages of the pieces is actually a plus, since the syllables tend to become abstract sounds, even if they are grouped into phrases that imply language. Vomvolos' arrangements sound wide open and allow the ensemble to almost magically translate each tune's melody and underlying linguistic meaning into musical emotions.

This set includes two compositions, "O Yannis kai O Drakos" and "Perperouna," which are composed by differing subsets of the group. Because these pieces completely meld the dramatic, the vocal and the instrumental, they may show where Yannatou and Primavera en Salonico could be heading, which makes Songs Of An Other an even more amazing listen.

Track Listing: Saerei Hovin Mernem; Za liobih maimo tri momi; Smilj Smiljana; Dunie Au; O Yannis kai O Drakos; Albanian Lullabye; Omar hashem leyakoyv; Radile; Sassuni Oror; Addio Amore; Perperouna; Ah Marouli.

Personnel: Savina Yannatou: voice; Yannis Alexandris: oud, guitar; Kyriakos Gouventas: violin, viola; Harris Lambrakis: nay; Michalis Siganidis: double-bass; Kostas Theodorou: percussion, double-bass; Kostas Vomvolos: quanun, accordion.

Title: Songs Of An Other | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: ECM Records

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