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Athens Concert [2 CD]

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Recorded at the foot of the Acropolis, at the open air Odeon of Herodes Atticus, on a summer night last year, "Athens Concert" is an entrancing collaboration between Charles Lloyd, uniquely expressive US saxophonist, and Maria Farantouri, venerable Greece vocalist - the soul of Greece for many listeners. With Lloyd's exceptional band in impassioned support, the project raises the bar for `trans-cultural' music-making. The music sweeps the listener along in its swirling river of sound. This is music of many moods and currents - celebratory, yearning, melancholic - embracing suites of traditional Greek music, songs of Theodorakis and Eleni Karaindrou, and Lloyd originals. The Lloyd band and Farantouri perform with a commitment that underscores the essential compatibility of the idioms. The great Greek themes of love, exile, nostalgia, and departure find their correspondences, after all, in the history of jazz. And if Farantouri is not a jazz singer per se, she embodies an emotional power comparable with the greatest vocalists of any genre. Lloyd writes in his liner notes: "From her first notes I felt such a power and depth of humanity; she is a modern wonder rising up from the ruins of civilization. She is Alethea, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, Gaia, Phemonoe - Mother of the Universe. The resonance of her voice stirred the memory of my love for Lady Day."

"Athens Concert" is the first recorded documentation of the alliance between Lloyd and Farantouri, but the concept has been taking shape and gathering momentum over the last decade. The singer and saxophonist met when Charles heard Maria in concert in his home town of Santa Barbara, California, in 1992. Lloyd subsequently invited Farantouri to join him on stage in Greece in 1993. "I felt her voice would be a perfect vehicle for my song `Blow Wind'. She, in turn, introduced me to `Vlefaro Mou' by Nikos Kypourgos and several songs by Mikis Theodorakis. Mikis's composition, `I Kept Hold on My Life,' with haunting lyrics by Nobel laureate poet George Seferis took root in my repertoire ..."

Every year since then Lloyd has spent time in Greece learning more of its history, music and landscapes, and passing along knowledge of his own broad genre to Farantouri. "For me," says the singer, "it was an aesthetic pleasure to work with Charles, becoming a unique experience on stage, as jazz music blended with the musical tradition of Greece, and transformed it into a wholly new sound." In this they were aided by two further Greek musicians, arranger-pianist Takis Farazis and lyra player Socratis Sinopoulos. The Greek traditional music heard here was arranged for the performance by Takis Farazis. A former student of Hungarian jazz pianist Bela Lacatos, Farazis established his reputation in Greece with the group Iskra and with his compositions for cinema and for presentations of ancient Greek drama. As Lloyd notes, he made "an enormous contribution to the Athens concert by connecting the dots between the structure of Greek tradition and the open borders of improvised music."

Socratis Sinopoulos began his musical life as classical guitarist, taking up the lyra (the pear-shaped fiddle) and the laouto (Eastern lute) in 1988. For the past twenty years, he has collaborated with composers, musicians and singers from Greece and the wider world in genres from folk music to jazz. Lloyd: "Socratis's mystical sound on lyra adds an entirely `other' dimension": archaic, at times hypnotically insistent in the Greek suites, it opens a door upon another time and culture. Sinopoulos has been heard as a soloist on Eleni Karaindrou's ECM recordings, including "Trojan Women", "Elegy of the Uprooting" and "The Weeping Meadow". Farantouri, of course, has a lifelong friendship and artistic association with Karaindrou. They met as students in Athens in the 1960s. In the years of the Junta, they reunited in Paris, where Farantouri sang on Eleni's first major works.

In the public mind, Maria Farantouri remains best-known as the singer who gave voice to the protest music of Mikis Theodorakis. Only 16 years old when she joined Theodorakis's ensemble, her rich contralto was heard at numerous political events. She subsequently kept Theodorakis's music alive during the seven years of the military dictatorship when it was banned in Greece. If universally acknowledged (also by the composer) as the optimum interpreter of Theodorakis, Farantouri has sung many different kinds of music. And we also hear her, in the "Athens Concert", singing music from the Byzantine sacred tradition, folk songs, Charles Lloyd's ballads, and Karaindrou's "Voyage to Cythera", the theme song for the movie by Theo Angelopoulos.

Recorded collaborations with vocalists have been rare in Lloyd's discography, a handful of pop and rock sessions in the 1970s notwithstanding. Yet through the medium of his saxophone, flute and tarogato, he is himself a singer - able in the course of a few bars to conjure the spirit of the blues, the muezzin's cry, or an evening raga. His feeling for melody is profound, whether he is finding new meaning in jazz standards, or wringing emotion from spirituals. From the beginning of his career, Lloyd has also proven an insightful leader and his band is, by common critical consensus, one of the finest in jazz today. The line-up has been stable for four years now, since Jason Moran came aboard as pianist in the quartet in early 2007. It is significant that Moran, a celebrated leader in his own right, newly voted Jazz Artist of the Year in the Down Beat Critics Poll and a recent recipient of a MacArthur `Genius' Award continues to make space for commitments with Lloyd in an increasingly crowded schedule - because there are lessons to be learned. "It's generationally important for Reuben, Eric and me to play with Charles," Moran recently told Down Beat. "Charles rides what we play and likes how we address his classic songs ["Dream Weaver" in the present instance]. He jumps into it." The elastic beat shared between Harland and Rogers and Moran is just one of the joys of this ensemble, and their tremendous drive and musicality underpins the wide-ranging action of the Athens Concert.

The live recording from Athens was mixed in Oslo in December 2010 and January 2011 by Manfred Eicher and Jan Erik Kongshaug.

The Charles Lloyd Quartet is touring widely this autumn with concerts in France, Switzerland, the Canary Islands, Macedonia, Turkey, Georgia, the Czech Republic, and Austria. At the tour's end Lloyd, Moran, Harland and Rogers will be joined by Maria Farantouri and Socratis Sinopoulos for concerts in Landsberg, Germany (November 1), JazzFest Berlin (November 6) and a grand return to Athens on November 9.

From the Artist

"Maria and I built upon this dream of creating a musical bridge between our two worlds. This dream became manifest in the Athens concert." - Charles Lloyd
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Product Details

  • Performer: Maria Farantouri, Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland, Socratis Sinopoulos
  • Audio CD (September 13, 2011)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: ECM Records
  • ASIN: B005CAAVK2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,890 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. Debra Jan Bibel TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 16, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Extraordinary. Charles Lloyd in his many spiritual jazz expeditions has never before ventured into these seas. In this 2-disc live recording from June 2010, he performs with Greek vocalist Maria Farantouri, combining American jazz improvisations and Greek tunes and lyrics. The first disc also contains Lloyd's own music and indeed lyrics, Dream Weaver and Blow Wind, but the album is mainly traditional music from Epirus, the Black Sea, and the Dodecanese Islands, and of composers Nikos Kypourgos, Eleni Karaindrous, and Mikis Theordorakis. Farantouri's voice is deep and dignified. Against Lloyd's rich, flowing saxophone and flute, Jason Moran provides crisp piano accents and melody emphases and rhythm men Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums cement the jazz groove. Socratis Sinopoulous plays lyra (a Greek fiddle) and Takis Farazis adds piano work in the third Greek Suite, a more folk-like grouping, found on disc 2. English translations to the lyrics are provided. Lyrical ballads, hymns, anthems, laments, and romances are of around the same slow to moderate tempo; you will not find bright or fast taverna pieces here. Lloyd instead gives impressions of antiquity [the performance took place in the classic Herod Atticus Odeon in Athens] and the roots of modern Greek ethos. Disc 1 is 42 minutes long, disc 2 lasts 45 minutes. This sequence of contained soulful, meditative pieces, spanning cultures and ages, finally lets loose in the last two tracks. The album should appeal to both jazz and world music fans. Lloyd's Aegean adventure is a success; I admire this musician who continues to explore, to seek out new horizons.
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Charles Lloyd & Marai Farantouri have been friends for ages and over the course of this bond, Lloyd began to hear the call of a Delphic oracle. Responding, he assembled an absolutely brilliant cast of sidemen and then partnered with his friend who brought the poetry to the endeavour. If you buy no other recording this year, buy this one. Lloyd, inspirational father to artists like Keith Jarett, gives his colleagues room to explore and create, and they deliver with power, subtlety and grace. Moran, in particular distinguishes himself. He can soar like McCoy Tyner and then repair to those mystical places in the soul that are the lair of Jarrett. He is simply astounding in this outing. Maria's voice is one of such sonorous depth and texture that her Greek poetry seems intimately connected to the poetical wisdom of Parmenides and Heraclitus. This is a jazz recording that would have knocked Heidegger into ecstacy. And at each entry, Lloyd focuses the talents so that they do not ever once step twice into the same river. I did not want this concert to end. Perhaps it was filmed. I simply can't imagine how beautiful an experience this must have been for all those who were there, and given all the trouble Greece is going through, this is a sublime reminder that were it not for those marvellous ancient Greeks, we'd have no western culture. Perhaps we might yet find a way to preserve theirs after all they have done to give us ours and enhance it in concerts such as this.
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The magnificent epic pervades the whole album. We could experience long journey searching for the quietude of mind. Difficulties and bumpy roads are all ahead of us who seek our peace of mind. American music met with mediterranean lyrics and sound in Athens. Charles Lloyd and Maria Farantouri transformed the material into a new contemporary soothing sound. However, the whole album is filled with the JAZZ. We could enjoy familiar Lloyd's voice in every tunes. When the last tune fades out, the big river suddenly appears in front of us. We notice we are standing by the wide riverside. Water flows easily and quietly. Indeed, Lloyd speaks he has always been drawn to the calming of waters on the Oct. issue of Jazz Times. "Dream Weaver" is reproduced after 46 years from the Atlantic recording. Jason Moran's sound fits with matured Lloyd. Moran metamorphosed Jarrett's earthy euphoria of Atlantic into traditional Greek tune. He confesses the quartet rehearsed a lot for the arrangement of new pieces, sensitive approaching and worked hard to get the right songs for Maria on the same magazine. They finally succeeded in cropping the huge amount of grains.
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To say it simple and plain: This is absolutely beautiful. Charles Lloyd and company create a great wash of sound and color. Their is swing, surprise and prayer all over this loving offer. For your listening pleasure, background or just straight up good music, this is a great listen.
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The magic in music. Two different worlds came into one. The amazing sounds of Charles Lloyd together with the exceptional voice of Maria Farantouri in Charle's songs but mainly in Greek songs including some of the major creek composers (Theodorakis, Karaindrou) but also some folk greek songs under a new view. Really magical moments. I am so happy that i will follow the concert live in Athens at 9th of November 2011.
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