Vassilis Tsabropoulos


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This piano trio has its roots in the elegant pianistic mysticism of Bill Evans and the exploratory restlessness of Paul Bley in similar setting, but the compositional and improvisational warmth of this trio writes its own name. Like many records on the ECM label, there is spaciousness in these proceedings that one would errantly label as "spare" or "sparse." The use of space is a different matter altogether, and that's what this band does: they use space as an architectural element in the creation of spontaneous and written composition. There are more than enough notes and rhythmic patterns to go around; it is their distribution and execution that sets them apart from those seekers of organized silences. As spontaneous compositions, the title track that opens the album and "Diamond Cut Diamond" are excellent examples in how to build harmonic tension methodically and gracefully while altering and stretching notions of time, rhythm, and durational space. Meter seems to float above the bandstand somewhere, ever threatening to enter, but never quite does. Tonal improvisation handled so gorgeously by Andersen is used as a means of collecting information from both Tsabropoulos and Marshall and carrying it back separated and organized in intervallic strategies that concentrate as much on mode as they do color and texture. It's communication via a gatekeeper, and what is transmitted is an altered reality in the form of another music on the way out than there was coming in. Elsewhere, on Tsabropoulos' "Mystic" a melody rife with major sevenths is liltingly played over counterpoint rhythm from Marshall. Andersen holds back at first, as if surveying the tune, but at the moment of inception there isn't really a place for him. When he does enter, he becomes the voice of counterpoint and Marshall free-floats polyrhythms over the piano's languid arpeggios, ever so slightly swinging. Yes, it is jazz of a high caliber for all of its invention and restraint. Another notable moment on an album full of them is "She's Gone" by Andersen, adapted from a Norwegian folk song. The small cluster of chords and notes that precede Andersen's melody are so fully present they are almost invisible. As Tsabropoulos opens his chromatic range a bit, inserting trills in the upper register of the piano, Andersen is free to take the melody toward another signpost, one that is familiar but unidentifiable, ghostly and spacious yet ever present to the slightest nuance in mode or interval; it's truly beautiful in the same way Bill Evans' final Paris recordings were: melancholy, wistful, and so full of life it had to escape somewhere. Here, luckily, that escape, while sought, is only for the purpose of drawing it back into the collective musical heart of this fine trio. As Tsabropoulos' debut, this is without doubt an auspicious beginning.

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