Vassilis Tsabropoulos, Anja Lechner, and U.T. Ghandi keep it fresh

The troupe renews early-20th-century transcriptions on Melos (ECM)

For all of its rich ancestry, this music seems terrifically fresh and of the moment.

For all of its rich ancestry, this music seems terrifically fresh and of the moment.

For all of its rich ancestry, this music seems terrifically fresh and of the moment.

For all of its rich ancestry, this music seems terrifically fresh and of the moment.

Melos demonstrates great strides forward for a creative combination of talents and sounds that was already nearly perfect. If Tsabropoulos and Lechner’s 2004 Chants, Hymns and Dances marked the discovery of a musical place, Melos chronicles the first steps of exploration. Both pianist Tsabropoulos and cellist Lechner seem less tentative in their playing, and less bound by score, no matter whose. While Chants was mostly built around transcriptions of G.I. Gurdjieff’s musical anthropology from Eastern Europe during the early 20th century, Melos is a recording of Tsabropoulos’ compositions with a few complementary Gurdjieff pieces strategically placed. Tsabropoulos has an audible penchant for the Byzantine canon, tempered by great confidence and spontaneity. “Vocalise” begins with what could be a liturgical call and response between piano and cello, keys playing simple scales, cello drawing arcs that gather those scales back. Then percussionist Ghandi turns up with brushes on cymbals, and soon Tsabropoulos goes off-book in that sweeping singing style I always associate with Keith Jarrett’s Swiss concert recordings from the early 1970s. Alternating registers high and low, Lechner makes space for a sequence of what amounts to lovely one-instrument duets. For all of its rich ancestry, this music seems terrifically fresh and of the moment.

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