For some time now, the name Athina Kontou has symbolized a deep understanding of how mu-sic can captivate us. So far, the bassist with the earthy tone has been heard in different contexts, for example, alongside saxophonist Luise Volkmann or pianist Johannes Bigge. With her debut album Tzivaeri, the German-Greek now sets her own accents and presents pieces she has adapted from Greek musical culture.
The title track of the album is a very well-known folk song from the Dodecanese, which, like so many traditional Greek songs, is about emigration – a theme that permeates recent Greek histo-ry. It is a lament in which a mother, who sent her child away so that he could have a better life, speaks to him and mourns her loss. “Tzivaeri mou” means “my precious” in the local Greek language, a dialect that has been influenced by many cultures.
It is an important personal concern for Athina Kontou to combine her experiences as an impro-vising musician in a jazz-influenced environment with her Greek roots. Greek-influenced jazz is much less common in this country than, for example, fusions of jazz with Latin American and Arabic music or Balkan sounds. The bassist, who lives in Cologne, has all the more leeway to find individual hinges for her album, connections that elude common formulas. Although jazz and Greek music may seem quite far apart at first glance, Athina Kontou has grown organically into both traditions. “Improvisation is an important part of traditional Greek music,” she tells us, “and that applies to urban music like Rebetiko as well as folk songs and dances, especially in long intros from the bouzouki or clarinet. The intro to ‘Harmandali’ on the record, for ex-ample, is played in a very traditional way.”
For all her involvement with her roots, working on Tzivaeri was also a voyage of discovery for Athina Kontou. The songs on the album contain, without exception, components of Greek mu-sical culture.
The songs on Tzivaeri not only have a captivating effect, seeming to suspend the uniqueness of space and the irreversibility of time. Athina Kontou also impressively demonstrates on her debut record how arbitrary and superfluous geographical, cultural or traditional demarcation lines are. Her music is a great invitation to all who simply want to listen and marvel without reservation.
Mary Halvorson is a genius composer and guitarist who has developed her own musical language, and with Code Girl she has incorporated poetry into that language. Incredible compositions and lyricism (each track is a different kind of poem). Halvorson's playing is as great as usual, and all the other members of the band sound great. Robert Wyatt's singing in particular works extremely well in the tracks he's featured. Highly, highly recommend. rat
This is really interesting music! To me this sounds like a contemporary version of 70s British progressive rock of Canterbury type, with elements of Henry Cow, but likewise VdGG or K-group music. Anyway: all comparisons do not really fit well, just listen to this yourself … Jo.Linn