Despite its recent political and economic problems, apparently there still exists a hard-core of committed Greek free music improvisers. However like the proverbial canary in the coal mine warning of impending disaster, the members of GRIX, who are experienced timbre investigator, now all live in Berlin.
Recorded five years after its first CD, the trio spreads its music over one dozen selections with added momentum, having become even more familiar with what each can do. Multi-reedist Floros Floridis is the veteran here who has recorded in the past with the likes of drummer Günter Baby Sommer and vocalist Savina Yannatou as well as composing film sound tracks. Pianist Antonis Anissegos spends much time on the notated side of the divide, while drummer Yorgos Dimitriadis is part of bands with the likes of saxophonist Frank Paul Schubert and bassist Miles Perkins.
One of the key points about the GRIXers is that while their commitment is definitely exploratory, they never lose sight of the basic melodiousness of other musics. “Aria”, for instance, although based on a traditional (Greek?) song sounds for all its moderato buoyancy to be something that could have been played by the Benny Goodman trio, with Floridis’ clarinet and Anissegos’ piano in the BG-Teddy Wilson role. A spherical arrangement, it includes different false climaxes before reaching a satisfying finale. A minimalist dabbler rather than a Gene Krupa-like swaggerer, Dimitriadis’ off-beat slaps and measured clanks still express a swinging overlay on pieces such as “Ubuntu” in spite of – or maybe because of –foreshortened reed snarls.
Throughout much of the musical conflict engendered results between the neo-impressionism propelled by the pianist in a Bill Evans-like formation and the most atonal leanings of the drummer; with the reedist mediating between the two. To make a literary example, Anissegos could be in the tradition of Nikos Kazantzakis without the religious overtone and Dimitriadis like Yiannis Ritsos, but of course much less doctrinaire. Meanwhile like a wise arbitrator the saxophonist/clarinetist leans one way or the other, depending on the situation. On pieces such as “Drifting Sand”, composed by Floridis and “Penetralia”, composed by Anissegos, basic balladic framework is established. The later defines romanticism in a unique fashion as the key-clinking chromatic theme intersects with two timbres double tongued from Floridis’ soprano. Conversely the texture of “Drifting Sand” is deep and warm enough to be a film soundtrack with mid-range and higher keyboard cadenzas unrolling alongside clarinet sighs. Billowing piano tones and precision pointed clarinet trills suggest an uneasy bed-time lullaby on “Simple Things”, another Floridis line.
Free Jazz gets its due on the Floridis-composed “What Tradition” and Dimitriadis’ “Lingual Gyrus”. As opaque as it is obtuse, the former is a face-off between shrilling clarinet and drum smashes with Anissegos contributing stacked glissandi until each musicians is as attuned to the theme as he is committed to improvisation. The latter melds bass clarinet tongue slaps and manually grazed drum beats that while remaining in the 21st century resolves itself as an up-to-date swing number.
If Penetralia has a drawback, it’s that none of the compositions extend past the six minute mark, with the majority much briefer. The 12 selections are superlative at expressing the trio’s compositional and performing talents. But imagine what they could come up with more generous room to stretch out. Ken Waxman (JazzWord)