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The Acoustic Sessions is the brainchild of drummer and producer Panos Vassilopoulos. The CD/DVD package offers some straight-ahead interpretations of jazz standards, played with skill and energy by the Athens-based trio.
The album features arrangements of 7 familiarindeed, over-familiartunes. There's no denying the quality of the selected tunes, but they have been recorded on many previous occasions and these versions take no chances with the compositions despite the musical talents of the players, especially pianist Costa Anadiotis. Two tracks feature the vocals of Alexandra Pashali. Her deep, rich contralto voice adds colour to both tunes, although she sounds hesitant on the opening phrases of Jimmy Van Heusen's "Darn That Dream" and it takes her a few bars to gain confidence.
Other tunes include Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa" and Cole Porter's "I Love You"both numbers swing admirably, with "Blue Bossa" building strongly from Vassilopoulos' drum introduction. Confusingly the final track is listed on the album's cover as "Interplay"an original by Vassilopoulos and "sound designer" Nick Papadopoulos. In fact, the final track is a version of Bronislaw Kaper's "Green Dolphin Street" (correctly listed on the CD itself), which features some of Anadiotis' best piano work as well as strong, rhythmic playing from Vassilopoulos and bassist Pericles Trivolis.
The DVD was filmed in High Definition and its sound and visual quality is excellent. It features in-studio performances of all 7 of the tunes on the CD, plus "Interplay," but lacks any interviews or concert footage.
The choice of standards and arrangements on The Acoustic Sessions ensures that the album is instantly familiar and enjoyable. However, the musicians clearly have the ability to open up and take chancesthe selection of some less-familiar tunes and riskier arrangements would have given them the opportunity to really show what they are capable of.
Track Listing: Autumn Leaves; Nica's Dream; Darn That Dream; Open Invitation; I Love You; Blue Bossa; Green Dolphin Street; Interplay (DVD only).
Personnel: Panos Vassilopoulos: drums; Costa Anadiotis: piano; Pericles Trivolis: bass; Alexandra Pashali: vocals (3,4); Nick Papadopoulos: sound design (8).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.