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To say that world jazz fusion violinist Elektra Kurtis comes from several different backgrounds is like saying Jay Leno has “a bit of a chin.” Ms. Kurtis has been born in, raised by people from, or lived in various diverse areas such as Greece, Egypt, America, Finland, and Poland – and you can bet that she uses this musical diversity to her advantage on Ensemble Elektra’s latest release, The Book of Time. The CD truly seems like a multi-cultural extension of Elektra herself, and a mostly interesting one at that.
Elektra put together the Ensemble Elektra apparently by scouring the planet for people with hyphenated cultural backgrounds such as Greek-Egyptian, Greek-Cypriot, African-American, and so on. Fortunately, most the musicians she chose put in an excellent performance for The Book of Time - especially considering the complexity of Elektra’s compositions. The tracks range from the almost mainstream pop of the title cut, to what could only be described as a Greek reggae jazz trip called “Mangas.” The main star of the show is Elektra’s violin playing, which is rich in Greek flavoring and is very effective as a lead instrument. Other standout performances come from clarinetist Lefteris Bournias who just WAILS on a track called “A Etos”, and guitarist Tasos Stylianou who serves up some tasty licks on the track “Sad & Happy.” Not to be left out, drummer Reggie Nicholson really busts loose on “Nine for Kurtis,” where he hijacks the tune for a little while do so some damage to the skins.
There are a few low points on the CD, one of which is the track “Sad & Happy” which frankly would be more at home in a fancy nightclub than on a jazz record. Despite the nice bass and guitar work on the track, I couldn’t help but mentally count “1... 2... CHA CHA CHA” when I listened to this cut. Also, the vocals on the final track “Dream” had me rushing to the phone to dial 911, as it sounded like someone was perishing inside of my stereo.
These minor problems are the exception to the rule however, and for the most part the CD is full of remarkable songs and musicianship. Ensemble Elektra’s The Book of Time is not only innovative, but for the most part it is very entertaining as well. Elektra Kurtis’ compositional ability to fuse together so many different types of music and have it sound natural is quite remarkable. I hope Ms. Kurtis continues her adventurous sonic spirit well into the future.
Track Listing: 1. Book of Time (4:17), 2. January (4:19), 3. Mangas (5:40), 4. Tsamiko (3:53), 5. Nine For Curtis (6:38), 6. A Etos (8:15), 7. In July (3:35), 8. Leta(3:16), 9. Sad & Happy (4:58), 10. Spring (4:50), 11. Dream (6:22)