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Ensemble Elektra: The Book Of Time

Glenn Astarita By

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No doubt the world is getting smaller, largely due to the rise of the Internet; however, the fairly recent world-music phenomenon may parallel the aforementioned notion, yet the convergence of disparate musical disciplines and musical expansion has blossomed for other or unrelated reasons. Thankfully, many artists are seeking new ideas or more importantly a willingness to explore alternating avenues of musical form as they absorb ethnocentric styles and musical structures. Yet as matters become more complex or ominous, science has made the transfer of knowledge a bit easier, as we are able to see or visualize a greater amount of information. Therefore, it is much easier to connect or collaborate these days whether in the physical or intellectual sense. Case in point being a new release from Ensemble Elektra led by violinist Elektra Kurtis. The Book Of Time is a thoroughly engaging recording consisting of a multi-national cast of musicians who respectively possess resumes that are about as diverse or comprehensive as one could imagine, yet the common thread hinges upon the convergence of musical spirits and minds. Separate entities that become one unified whole; hence, a concoction, brew or woven fabric that bears a differentiating sense of individuality.

Born in Greece, raised and musically educated in Poland, Ms. Kurtis has also performed with the esteemed Finnish composer Edward Vesala while presently calling New York City her home. Sporting an impressive resume, Elektra Kurtis has also recorded with saxophonist Steve Coleman, performed with Henry Threadgill, Anthony Davis, the Brooklyn Philharmonic while also enlightening folks to the virtues of Greek and Gypsy music among other ventures. Here, New York avant-garde jazz guitarist Kelvyn Bell, the Jazz Passengers bassist Brad Jones, electric cellist Rufus Cappadocia, Cyprus born guitarist Tasos Stylianou, clarinetist Letheris Bournias, drummer Reggie Nicholson and others of various origins, coalesce and help round out this charmingly unique project!

The band pursues Mediterranean motifs along with hard-edged electric guitar work from Kelvyn Bell on the title track, The Book Of Time. Here, Ms. Kurtiss sprightly, resonant lines bespeak some mythical or unknown dwelling as the band merge non-Western harmonic concepts with richly melodic lyricism, enhanced by Nuria Divis sensuous vocals amid solid fours from the rhythm section. Throughout, the music is harmonious, vivacious and distinctively original! Brad Jones pumping electric bass lines spark the rhythms into a rock/funk beat in support of Kurtis and cellist Rufus Cappadocias melodious unison choruses as affable themes also prevail and take hold on Kurtis, January. Caribbean rhythms come to the forefront during the piece titled, Mangas while electric bassist Brad Jones heightens the overall attack with a fleet-fingered and vigorously powerful bass solo. Tsamiko boasts an electrified North African-style motif and features some truly inspiring soloing by clarinetist Leftaris Bournias along with sweeping jazz chord voicings from guitarist Tasos Stylianou as Ms. Kurtis defines the attractive melodies in effortless, persuasive and acute fashion. Aetos strikes the senses as some sort of Middle-Eastern celebration yet Kurtis and clarinetist Lefteris Bournias partake in furious dialogue with alternating and intersecting solos atop pulsating rhythms as things heat up without getting out-of-hand or becoming convoluted. The compositions are well-structured and sharply arranged as the soloing is geared around the framework of Ms. Kurtiss often impressionistic yet firmly rooted ideas and arrangements while Eddie Allen also lends his arranging expertise on some pieces. Another strong and quite memorable Kurtis piece titled, In July features a stunningly beautiful guitar solo by Tasos Stylianou as this piece marks somewhat of a shift in strategy while the band engage Bossa-Nova rhythms along with a warm and memorably melodic hook. The final track, Dream is something of a discordant vocal/recitation from guest artist Joan Bouise; however the absence of melody and dour sobriety of this piece seems to counter the preceding flow and content of the recording as a whole. Especially while the upbeat and heartening outlook may still be fresh in ones memory, nonetheless, The Book Of Time is a gleaming effort that should satisfy the hearts and minds of a widespread audience. * * * *

Title: The Book Of Time | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: For 4 Ears


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