Achirana

COMPOSERS: Andersen,Marshall,Tsabropoulos
LABELS: ECM
PERFORMER: Vassilis Tsabropoulos (p), Arild Andersen (b), John Marshall (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 157 462-2

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Here are two superb mixed-nationality trio albums which demonstrate just how universal and broad-based jazz excellence has become. The first trio comprises a Greek pianist, a Norwegian bassist and an English drummer, and the second brings together an Italian singer, an English pianist and an American guitarist. Both albums are dynamic and very poetic, and each has its own very special atmosphere, but I’m beginning with Achirana because it contains one element completely new to my experience.

Tsabropoulos, a protégé of Vladimir Ashkenazy, is the first classical pianist I’ve ever heard who can play jazz with real understanding and great imagination. Bassist Andersen heard Tsabropoulos at a jazz concert in Athens and got the trio together with John Marshall, who is a regular associate.

After they’d played only four concerts, Manfred Eicher recorded them for ECM. Five of the pieces were written by Tsabropoulos, who is also an excellent composer of jazz themes, and Andersen contributed two of his own pieces.

During the recording session, Eicher suddenly suggested that they record two totally improvised pieces with no pre-discussion, and this creative process produced the title track ‘Achirana’ and ‘Diamond Cut Diamond’ – both performances so finely wrought that they sound pre-structured.

Andersen’s ‘Valley’ is a slow, Romantic piece with glorious piano sonorities and the ravishing sound of his bass and its singing high notes all sensitively underpinned by Marshall. Tsabropoulos’s ‘Fable’ begins with light rhythms and a bass melody, but erupts in heavier drum rhythms and passionate climaxes, raunchy, urgent and uninhibited, until it subsides for a reprise of the theme.

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This trio of virtuosi never over-plays, and the album is beautifully recorded. It’s an object lesson in artistry.