Sakis Papadimitriou

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The first minutes of this album's opening track consist of ambient strums and swells gleaned from the insides of Papadimitriou's piano, augmented by his partner Agouridakis' percussion. It's not until about the seven-minute mark that the pianist plays a straight tone, which -- when it finally comes -- is a huge release. Perhaps it's the weight of historical precedent or expectation, but often the prepared piano never has sounded complete; the amputated overtones and the sound of various knick-knacks bouncing around on a piano's strings have an artificial cast that in large doses can be alienating. As built, the piano is such a marvelous instrument. To willfully mangle the sound seems a bit perverse. Of course, when John Cage and Henry Cowell first started sticking things into the piano's strings that weren't supposed to be there, it was in the name of musical experimentation. A noble enterprise, to be sure, especially when used as a device as part of a concept that also exploits the instrument's more typical qualities. Such is the case with Papadimitriou. He's not only able to coax an enormous variety of sounds from the altered instrument, he's also able to combine those with its natural sounds to form a convincing personal aesthetic. When playing it straight, Papadimitriou's touch is remindful of Keith Jarrett. Much of his strumming has a zither-like quality; he's also adept at drawing rich, sustained drones that put digital synthesis to shame. The set has an ebbing and flowing quality. Occasionally a constant pulse will push the music forward, but, for the most part, tension and release result from contrasts in texture and timbre. Agouridakis' role is not unlike the pianist's. He has a complimentary dynamic sensibility, and his playing has a decidedly melodic bent. Both are fine musicians, and they work in tandem quite well. Although Papadimitriou takes composer credit on all cuts, most (with the exception of the closing "Festive Blue") have an open, freely improvised feel. Papadimitriou and Agouridakis' music -- a hybrid of free jazz, Greek folk music, and experimental European-derived art music -- is agreeable and easy to recommend.

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