|J A Z Z W O R D R E V I E W S
|Reviews that mention Floros Floridis
Günter Baby Sommer
Jazz Werkstatt JW 101
André Goudbeek/Peter Jacquemyn/Lê Quan Ninh
NotTwo MW 859-2
Putting to rest – perhaps permanently –the old saw that Jazz is a young man’s game, are these two exceptional trio sessions. Each of them feature musicians, who, with the exception of Belgian bassist Peter Jacquemyn, who is 49 and counting, features musicians who will never see 50 again, let alone 20. At the same time each set reaches its sonic zenith in a different way. Uwaga is an unbridled exercise in super-intense Energy Music while Melting Game encompasses 10 compositions which refer as much to the ongoing Jazz tradition as futuristic experimentation.
Showing improvised music’s universality six countries are represented by the same number of players. Veteran percussionist Günter Baby Sommer, 68, is an (East) German, who has played for years with pianist Ulrich Gumpert. On the same CD, bassist Akira Ando, 56, who has worked with everyone from pianist DD Jackson to saxophonist Thomas Borgmann, is Japanese; while Floros Floridis, who is reticent about revealing his age, but has been improvising since the 1980s, most notably with the late bassist Peter Kowald, is Greek. Meanwhile on Uwaga, reedist André Goudbeek, 65, best-known for his stint with the Willem Breuker Kollektief, is Dutch; percussionist Lê Quan Ninh, 51, who has played with just about every experimental musician in the notated and improv world is French; and there’s Jacquemyn, whose playing partners have ranged from clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann to pianist Fred Van Hove.
From a Cracow concert, the 44-minute-plus rendition of “Attention” is the defining performance on the Goudbeek/Jacquemyn/Ninh disc. It’s built up from the top with high-pitched, jittery split tones, plus emphasized growls, tongue flutters and hockets from the saxophonist; string smacks, scrubs and spiccato stretches from the bassist; plus cymbal rubs, clip-clops and drum top squeaks from the percussionist.
As the piece evolves, the interface breaks into tandem duo work, trio communication and solo spots, often a capella. Each trope exposes many textures. At times Jacquemyn’s strokes become more agitated and sul ponticello moving the vector, sometimes meeting the lion’s roar of thunder-sheet shaking from Ninh. Elsewhere his pacing is mellower, bringing out his strings’ low-pitched undertones and just as importantly preventing the trio from figuratively blasting off into outer space. For his part the percussionist reveals a magician’s cupboard full of unexpected sound extensions. There are ratchets, drags, whacks and shrills that resemble a fire alarm; others which create alarm clock-like reverberating ticking; and other beats which demonstrate more variety among rim shots than most drummers produce. As for Goudbeek, sometimes his bass clarinet’s chalumeau register tones create an undulating curtain of intense vibrato, the better to join Jacquemyn’s low-pitched bass-string stretching. Other times, spurred by the bassist’s frenetic vocalizing and juddering bow-angling, Goudbeek’s tongue slaps, strained glossolalia and pressurized throat roughage, go far beyond any saxophone’s expected range. The complicated coda matches walking string pumps from the bassist with a series of descending pants from the reedist like those heard from a dog after a hearty run.
Vocal exhortations are audible on the other CD as well, usually taking the form of encouraging “oh yeahs” from Sommer when one of the players hits a particularly bluesy and commanding note sequence. Often this approval is audible when Floridis masticates some glissandi from his straight clarinet; Ando is slapping his strings; or Sommer is rolling and smacking his own drum tops. On aural evidence, performances like these could convince even the staunchest Dixielander that he’s hearing an undiscovered slab of Classic Jazz: Sommer’s playing resembles that of his namesake Baby Dodds, the reed man channels Baby’s older brother, clarinetist Johnny Dodds, and Ando could be Wellman Braud – New Orleans pioneers all. A prime example of this is “Salpismata”, where the bull fiddler’s expression moves from measured walking to bowing with tough friction; the drummer rumbles and shuffles; and Floridis’ sparkling clarinet lines include andante runs plus off-register squeaks.
Nonetheless, Melting Game isn’t really a Trad Jazz session. Floridis’ bass clarinet snorts and chirps references Eric Dolphy more than any mainstream sound re-creator; while each of the other players is very conversant of the advances and influences that have appeared in improvised music during the past few years. Floridis’ composition “Hora” for instance, is a freer take on the Israeli style of the same name, with his clarinet and Ando’s bowed bass managing to mate the dance’s innate cheerfulness with mournful melodiousness that could have migrated from a Klezmer dirge. Meantime Sommer’s percussion outgrowth adds resonations that resemble those of Andalusian castanets and maracas, with the finale divided between bass drum thumps and flutter tonguing from the reedist. Sommer’s “Inside-Outside-Shout” exposes ruffs, pops and tom-tom patterning that sound more Native American than European. As the drummer vocalizes shaman-like incantations as he plays, the bassist contributes shunted bass string splatters and the reedist frenetic yakety-sax cries
All of these unexpected timbre extensions unfold alongside as many shuffle drum beats, cow bell whacks, muscular bass-string plucks and arco phrasing plus juddering contralto flutters and puffs from the reedist as you’d find on most standard Jazz dates. This makes Melting Game as impressive an outing of modern post-Bop, as Uwaga is an unmatched and example of unalloyed Free Jazz.
Track Listing: Melting: 1. Hymnus 2. Shuffle To WH 3. Hora 4. Inside-Outside-Shout 5. For Kim 6. 2:22 7. Blues For P.K. 8. Flageolet For P.H.9. Salpismata 10. Goze
Personnel: Melting: Floros Floridis (alto saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet); Akira Ando (bass) and Günter Baby Sommer (drums and percussion)
Track Listing: Uwaga: 1. Attention! 2. Pasop!
Personnel: Uwaga: André Goudbeek (alto saxophone and bass clarinet); Peter Jacquemyn (bass and voice) and Lê Quan Ninh (percussion)
April 1, 2012
Sweet, Sour, Sharp & Soft
Booklet notes for JazzWerkstatt JW 041
Motivated and resourceful, saxophonist Floros Floridis is arguably Greece’s most accomplished improvising musician. A world traveler, he’s best known in the jazz world for his collaborations with like-minded experimental musicians, most notably the late Wuppertal-based bassist Peter Kowald and drummer Günter “Baby” Sommer of Dresden. At the same time Thessaloniki-based Floridis – who with pianist Sakis Papadimitriou recorded Greece’s first out-and-out Free Jazz session in 1979 – has always made a point of encouraging other Hellenic players along the path to Free Music. “Free Improvisation is my favorite method of creating music,” he says. “It’s the one I respect and believe in the most.”
This CD from Grix, his new trio, is a notable example of this philosophy. Over the course of one dozen instant compositions, the 55-year-old veteran, who plays alto saxophone, bass and Bb clarinets here, hooks up with two prodigiously talented younger performers from his home town, in a session recorded there.
Pianist Antonis Anissego (born 1970) and drummer Yiorgos Dimitriadis (born 1964), now both live in Berlin, where Floridis is also a frequent visitor. After extensive academic studies throughout Europe, the well-traveled Anissego composes and performs orchestral, chamber and theatre compositions throughout Europe and in Asia. Still, as his playing on this disc demonstrates, he also posses a fine jazz touch and sensibility.
Dimitriadis moved from rock music to studies in Boston with master jazz drummers Alan Dawson and Bob Moses, and then was exposed to Free Music through Floridis-organized gigs in Thessaloniki. During a decade in Paris, the drummer played in French jazz groups, and latterly gigs with legendary American bassist Sirone as well as with Grix. On this disk, Dimitriadis’ powerful beat is impressively balanced by his rhythmic flourishes and quicksilver tempo changes.
All the tunes on Sweet, Sour, Sharp & Soft involve sonic cross-pollination, which means that each trio member contributes his fair share to the success of the CD.
To take one example, a track such as “Sarsoumades” matches Anissego’s thick piano chording with growling, irregularly vibrated split tones from Floridis, plus sharp cracks and doubled pops from Dimitriadis’ toms and snare. As the reedist erupts into harsh staccato cries, the pianist’s high-velocity, contrasting dynamics almost levitate the keyboard, while the drummer steadies the presentation with rim shots and rebounds.
Similarly, Anissego’s internal string-stopping and plucking evolve in triple counterpoint with sul tasto bass lines and diaphragm-vibrated clarinet squeals on “Melekouni”. Continuing to improvise in the chalumeau register, Floridis’ key percussion and tongue slaps eventually become rougher and his split tones more detached, although he’s perfectly accompanied by irregular wood-block and gamelan-like pulses from the percussionist.
Jokingly Floridis explains that “Grix” doesn’t really represent anything in particular. However the “Gr” does reference “Greece” – and note that every tune title is replicated in Greek characters as well as regular script. Meanwhile the “ix” gives Grix a gritty contemporary look. Certainly single-minded toughness is one of the musical qualities exhibited on this CD, along with extrasensory mutual interaction and profound technical skill.
In fact, although taken together the adjectives may suggest contradictions; alternatively “sweet, sour, sharp and soft” is how these extraordinary improvisers play on this notable and highly original date.
Ken Waxman (www.jazzword.com) Toronto July 2008
April 8, 2009
F.L.O.R.O. III (Further Lines Over Rough Options)
By Ken Waxman
August 8, 2005
Unlike rockers, classical recitalists and even mainstream jazzers, committed improvisers have a compulsion to constantly involve themselves in novel situations with new players or new instruments. For them, repetition is the same as stasis.
Thus these two CDs find accomplished reedists who have recorded noteworthy acoustic duo and trio discs, setting up more of a challenge by welcoming more musicians and electronics. Frankly, the end products arent as satisfying as earlier, all-acoustic dates, but the players have to be commended for their audacity and refusal to stand pat.
A resident of Thessaloniki, multi-reedman Floros Floridis has been the lonely crusader for Free Improv in Greece for years. He and pianist Sakis Papadimitriou recorded the countrys first outside jazz LP in 1979. Since then hes been involved with a variety of local and international players, ranging from Germans, bassist Peter Kowald and percussionist Günter Baby Sommer to American guitarist Nicky Skopelitis and Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz. Along the way hes written music for radio, theatre and film.
Oxford, Englandbased saxophonist Tony Bevan is a crusader like Floridis. But with the BritImprov scene a little more welcoming than the one in Greece, the campaign hes waged is for the acceptance as of the unwieldy bass saxophone as a flexible improvising tool, liberating it from its status as a Dixieland clown. To that end hes turned out dazzling CDs with the likes of British guitarist Derek Bailey, Chicago trombonist Jeb Bishop and American Free Jazz drummer Sunny Murray.
Adding additional instrumental voices to the arena as Bevan has done for the six tracks of Bruised and Floridis has on the 15[!] pieces on F.L.O.R.O. III, overloads the result away from unadulterated improv and towards textures, patterns and beats. Taken as a whole, the consensus is that neither Bevan, who plays tenor and bass saxophones on his CD, nor Floridis whose instruments include soprano and alto saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet, wooden flute, voice, as well as it seems synthesized strings and keyboard samples gets enough solo space.
Portentously the British saxophonists associates are not only bassist John Edwards and percussionist Mark Sanders, who appear on a high percentage of BritImprov dates, but also Orphy Robinson, playing vibraphone, marimbula (sic), steel drum, percussion and electronics and Ashley Wales of the SpringHeel Jack duo on soundscapes and electronics.
Third outing for the F.L.O.R.O. crew each time with a different English translation of the abbreviation the woodwind player here matches bassist Nektarios Karatzis and drummer Nikos Psofogiorgos from F.L.O.R.O. I, with guitarist Babis Papadopoulos from F.L.O.R.O. II. Since electric piano, celli, strings, brass and electric bass are also listed, overdubbing and other studio wizardry distinguishes this outing from the earlier ones.
Thats a shame, since the most memorable parts of this CD are those when Floridis blows unfettered. These tracks arent untouched Trad Jazz either. On F1 for instance, his full-bodied moderato clarinet trills are entwined with secondary lines from a ghost clarinetist twittering in a higher register. Managing the double tracking, rather than being controlled by it, the clarinetist, bassist and drummer replicate the gentle swing of say, Buddy DeFranco with Red Mitchell and Shelly Manne, adding a walking bass line and bop cymbal snaps. Plus the piece is free enough to have a rondo as the coda.
Basses Duo, as the title suggests, offers up two Karantzises, one playing arco, the other pizzicato. Harmonizing at points, the double bass action also gives the reedist scope for pitch-vibrated glissandi, altissimo trills and tongue slaps. Similarly, Celli Duo, an impressive bass clarinet feature.
When everything is aligned properly the additions can help. Chaos 3, for example, links steady, unflashy drumming with stark electronic textures that take on movie monster-like sounds. Flordis best improvising of the disc occurs here as he spits out lightly accented and pitch-vibrated tones, twitters and overblowing.
Psofogiorgos isnt always that diffident, however. On the aptly titled Nice Groove and several other tunes, pounding rhythms make common cause with meandering double bass thumps, knob-twisting guitar reverb and sprinkled accents from the Fender Rhodes. At times resembling a Hellenic version of Ornette Colemans Prime Time, only the saxist maintains the improv context with either well-modulated, bass clarinet double-tonguing, warbling alto saxophone lines or meandering soprano sax fills.
Things are even less impressive elsewhere. On one track an overlay of shifting synthesized strings seems to be a on a different plane than Flordis supple clarinet tone. Another, made up of squealing saxophone vamps, rattling drum bits and thumping drums sounds like rock music. A coupling of primitivist wood flute and quivering hand drums on Bariloche 2 provides so-called World Music echoes without follow through.
World Music emulation isnt one of the shortcomings of Bruised, but overall the forthright singularity Bevan elsewhere brings to his improvising is muted by accommodation with soundscapes and offbeat percussion textures.
On the more than 17-minute Leviathan, for instance, the saxophonist doesnt truly make his presence felt until about four minutes before the conclusion and thats with singular, trilled understated lines. Preceding this are oscillating electronic shimmers, raindrop-like click clacks from wooden objects, arco bass lines and steady steel drum patterning. Bevans earlier input is made up of circular growling sounds, but taken as a whole the track lists towards Spring Heel Jacks wave form experiments.
Taxi dance and Tempranillo provide a more rewarding amalgamation of the acoustic and electronic interface. On the first Bevan on tenor reveals an unexpected kinship to Lester Youngs playing as he trills steady cadences over what sound like a meeting between echoing harmonica, jangling maracas and a resonating steel drum. Following a concise arco bass intro, Bevan downpedals his reed overblowing to a display of circular breathing, segmented with distinct whistles and unique harmonies.
Tempranillo is 11-minutes of jumbled references. At one point Robinsons key-ringing vibraphone echoes speed along like the work of a modernist Terry Gibbs, while Mark Sanders demonstrates his skills with cross-handed percussion patterning. These clattering polyrhythms in turn spur Bevan from playing gentle swinging tones to launching tough, staccato sheets of sound where squeals and irregular pitch vibrations lead to short bitten-off notes.
Working Wales soundscapes into the aural picture on the title track provides more scope for everyone. Edwards creates a guitar-like a flat-picking bass line, after unveiling a chiming, arco counter pattern to Bevans mid-range bass sax expansions. As velvety pedal tones turn abstruse and dissonant, electronic sound patterns, including what sounds like the repetitive clanking of a metallic wind-up toy, expand. Relaxing into this backing, the saxophonist becomes more assured. Turbulent and contrapuntal, he adds altissimo cries to his solo.
Linking the need for musical innovation with the freedom to fall short in execution, Bevan and Floridis must be commended for exploring new territory with these discs. Folks familiar with their work will no doubt revel in the novelty and virtuosity displayed on some of the tracks here. But those coming to the music for the first time would be better off seeking out earlier small group outings by Bevan and/or Floridis before tackling these sessions.
August 8, 2005
Improvising at Barakos
j.n.d. re-records 003
F.ictional L.ies O.n R.ight O.ccasions II
j.n.d. re-records 004
Good taste is timeless, as the slogan states, and so is good improvising. More than that, its also timelessly distinctive, as these discs show.
Despite the sequential catalogue numbers, these duo CDs, which both feature multi-reedman Floros Floridis, were actually recorded nearly a quarter century apart. IMPROVISING AT BARKOS from 1979, with the reedist partnered with pianist Sakis Papadimitriou, was initially a double LP, and has since been celebrated as the first record of free improv in Greece. The other CD, recorded in January 2003, finds Floridis maintaining his improvisational integrity, but keeping up with the times in a partnership with Babis Papadopoulos on electric and acoustic guitars, loops and effects. A multimedia CD it also includes a video of the musicians in Floridis hometown of Thessalonki.
Since their meeting at Barkos, Papadimitriou has forged a longtime partnership with local percussionist Lefteris Agouridakis, and worked with other Europeans like French saxophonist Daunik Lazro and Portuguese violinist Carlos Zingaro. A pointillistic stylist, he mixes internal piano preparations, classical tropes and folkloric references to complement the multi-reedists work here. Floridis, who solos on soprano and alto saxophones and clarinet, has since intensified his free improv skills with people like the late German bassist Peter Kowald and German drummer Günter Sommer, and forged rhythmic, world music connections with American guitarist Nicky Skopelitis and Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz.
That was far in the future in 1979, though and this CD consecrates nearly 79 [!] minutes to the unparalleled freedom the pianist and reedman were enjoying for the first time. Created only a few years after the ouster of a military dictatorship, Floridis and Papadimitriou may have tried to pack as much as they could into the disc for fear that they might never be able to play as freely again.
Certainly the influences and innovations abound throughout. There are times when Floridis trills deep into the horn, replicating the sound of a Hellenic shepherd for instance, and others where his harsh, screaming aviary multiphonics on alto seem to have as their starting point crackling Jackie McLean-like reed stabs into the New Thing. On one tune he creates pretty, flute-like cadenzas, on another aviary chirps and peeps give away to irregular vibrations and slip-slides up the scale.
Meanwhile Papadimitrious piano does more than provide a carpet of keyboard sounds to support Floridis improvisations; he uses his skills to practically renovate the entire room within which the saxman is improvising. To keep things moving he persistently plays double-time arpeggios; conversely, the tempo sometimes drags when his impressionistic chordal patterns become closer to Floyd Cramers Last Date rather than Bill Evans Letter To Evan.
On the final tune the pianist extracts sustained chords from deep within the piano innards, building up suggestions of dread and menace. Notes are sharp and mechanized as if he was pumping a player piano. Meanwhile the saxman is emphasizing squealing animal sounds and note flurries that are double-tongued in a more comfortable range when Papadimitriou produces some two-handed boogie woogie. Improvisation d plus the national rocknroll ends with a simple blues and a right-handed variation of the theme.
IMPROVISING AT BARKOS main drawback is its extreme length. With only two instruments on tap, following the course for its entire length reveals some sameness that likely isnt as obvious in shorter doses.
These doses include tunes like Folk Improvisation, where the keyboardists work ranges from strummed chords to pounding, mechanized, interface, probably resulting from stopped hammers. At one point Floridis squealing reed pitches combine with Papadimitrious circular glissandos to conjure up a line that could be burlesquing an aria from Carmen. But the sound spectrum is such that Papadimitriou could be playing a guitar rather than a piano.
Theres no doubt on the second CD that Babis Papadopoulos is playing a guitar, when he isnt playing loops and, effects, that is, and Floridis adds bass clarinet and overdubs to his arsenal as well here. Nearly 25 years of collaboration and refinement has also gone into Floridis improvising skills, so that this session is also tighter than the previous one. Plus the variety of sounds and genres hinted at on BARAKOS are better expressed electronically.
On Talking lines, for instance, the folk-blues created by Papadopoulos and his bottleneck guitar playing dont sound as much like Greek rebetikas, but as a Hellenic twist on the Mississippi Delta sound. As his effects move to the foreground, Floridis appears to be playing a electrified and amplified clarinet, alternating sweet, contralto sounds with bird-like yawps.
Fearless Guys begins with deep, resonating, bass clarinet swoops leavened by wiggling fingerpicking and backed by loops. The reeds restrained split tone are sometimes echoed by guitar chords until Floridis squeals out altissimo lines, while fuzztone from Papadopoulos almost make it appear theyve gone into Boogie Rock territory. Perhaps Floridis experience with Skopelitis, a Bill Laswell acolyte, inspired the dense droning reed tones that mix with wah-wah pedal effects.
Elsewhere, as on Walking on the Edge and Jammin flees, the output turns downright folksy -- with a twist. On the former, for instance, as circular breathed multiphonics from Floridis invested with irregular vibrations get softer and softer, the guitarist accompanies with mid-Atlantic rhythm guitar licks, sorta like Moussaka meets Stax-Volt. Both instruments become almost stentorian until the piece fades. On the later, Papadopoulos appears to be finger picking an amplified bouzouki, while Floridis puffs out a tone that could as easily come from a harmonica. After a variation of trading fours, the reed line becomes more legato and the string accompaniment could be used to back up a cowboy singer.
Finally there are tunes like Lullaby for a Dragon where the saxman takes advantage of overdubbing, and circles and echoes his bass clarinet pedal point with double-tongued, clarinet and soprano saxophone lines. He becomes his own World Saxophone Quartet, then gets into false registers and spetrofluctuation, seemingly playing through a detached mouthpiece. Meanwhile Papadopoulos elongated lead lines contain so many notes in rapid succession that they could arise from an electric piano not a guitar.
Insight into the impressive work of Greeces most consistent experimental reedist, F.ICTIONAL L.IES O.N R.IGHT O.CCASIONS II is a session for all improv fanciers, while IMPROVISING AT BARKOS, with its undoubted historical importance, could be a second choice for many.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Improvising: 1. Improvisation a plus opening and closing 2. Almost Kalamatianos 3. Wave 4. Folk improvisation 5. F2 extract 6. KJ 7. Alto 0,5 8. Improvisation c 9. Intermission 10. Improvisation d plus the national rocknroll
Personnel: Improvising: Floros Floridis (soprano and alto saxophones, clarinet); Sakis Papadimitriou (piano)
Track Listing: F.ictional: 1. Rough options 2. Lullaby for a Dragon 3. Jammin flees 4. As I 5. Talking lines 6. Folk etc 7. Hommage to Tin Pan Alley 8. Fearless Guys 9. Walking on the Edge 10. Smoothing
Personnel: F.ictional: Floros Floridis (soprano and alto saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet); Babis Papadopoulos (electric and acoustic guitars, loops, effects)
October 20, 2003
Our trip so far
M Records 5204876 01013
F.ly L.ow O.der R.oll O.ver I
j.n.d. re-records 002
Dedicating yourself to free music can be a thankless task. Not only are audiences scarce and recognition slow in coming, but the practitioner often finds himself isolated from other players and having to travel far from home to forge connections.
That sort of personal scenario played itself out many times in the early days of the New Thing and EuroImprov. Even today excellent improvisers like tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan of New Orleans or reedman Phil Hargreaves of Liverpool, England often must travel to larger population centres to hook up with like-minded players.
If that seems like an encumbrance, imagine what it must be like for woodwind player Floros Floridis from Thessalonki, who almost single-handedly waves the jazz/improv flag in Greece.
Greek Jazz? The phrase itself sounds like an oxymoron, even though over the past decade, its been acknowledged that master musicians can come as easily from Germany (East and West), Italy, Canada, Brazil, Cuba and South Africa as from either side of the Mason-Dixon Line. Still, any one of those countries was known to have a long, classical or rhythmic history. But most North Americans only association with Hellenic sounds was what they heard in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Never on Sunday or the overwrought pop symphonies of Yanni and Vangelis.
Floridis, who with pianist Sakis Papadimitriou made Greeces first Free Jazz record in 1979 [!], has dealt with his isolation by writing for film, theatre and dance performances and by spreading his talents among many bands, including a German trio with the late bassist Peter Kowald and drummer Günter Sommer, the Inter-Balkan Orchestra, the Florina Brass Band and the two combos here.
OUR TRIP SO FAR, matches up the Hellenic musicmaker with two foreign heavy hitters, American-Greek guitarist Nicky Skopelitis, best known for his work with fellow guitarist Sonny Sharrock, bassist Bill Laswell and tenor titan Peter Brötzmann; and to show how music transcends political boundaries, Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz, a longtime associate of cornetist Don Cherry. The results meld Greco-Turkish and rock influences with improvised sounds.
F.L.O.R.O. on the other hand, finds Floridis plus a quintet of little-known --outside of Greece that is -- local musicians. Rejuvenation of some traditional Greek songs, all arranged by the saxman, takes place, with jazz, Balkan, rock and free music added to the jaunty, curvaceous themes. Balkan influences arent that odd, since geography places Greece and its Balkan neighbors in close proximity. They share some of the same melodies and many of the same instruments.
An example of what you can do with this blend of instruments is demonstrated most clearly on tunes like Seriani and Stergios. The former, a uncomplicated andante line, finds guitarist Vangelis Tsotridis picking out muted, Johnny Smith-type chords as drummer Nikos Psofogiorgos rumbles from his kit, while the horns -- trumpeter Pandelis Stoikos and clarinetist Vasilis Komatas as well as Floridis on alto saxophone -- blend into a reedy squeeze-box sound. As the horns work off one another in counterpoint, woody clarinet tones and trilling alto lines mix with distorted guitar reverb and a walking bass line. By the end, though, intimations of the folkloric theme have been subverted by a stop-time ending with echoes of Ornette Colemans compositions.
Colemans Prime Time band and Miles Davis electric period bands appear to be the models for the later tune. In it, legato clarinet lines mix with guitar fills that sound like they migrated from BITCHES BREW. As growling, gritty resonances from the alto man give way to deeper trills and split tones, the piece picks up Klezmer-Balkan overtones even as Tsotridis leans into his wah wah pedal and Psofogiorgos press rolls are more Baker (Ginger) then Blakey (Art).
Taking to heart the lesson fellow reedist Julius Hemphill expressed in several of his longer compositions, Floridis knows that as long as the rhythm is catchy and constant, the soloist has freedom to do as he wishes. Thus, there are times the guitarist produces the sort of effects with his pedals that sound as if they belong on a Headhunters session, while the honks, snorts, trills and drones from the horn section make the tunes appear to be an admixture of Free Jazz and Greek wedding ditties.
The tightness, but reticence of the other horn men leads you to speculate that they may be part of the Florina Brass Band, which is thanked in the booklet notes. And it must be admitted, that after a while to non-Virgilian ears, as with pieces built on reggae or raga scales, a certain sameness does creep into the sounds here.
Whether melancholy or exhilarated, the guitar and percussion work here is also a bit faceless, with the rhythm partners doing more decorating and backing then idea contribution. That changes enormously on the other CD, since Skopelitis and Temiz are anything but shy.
Running through 10 improvisations in about 48 minutes, OUR TRIP SO FARs emphasis is on exhibition as well as improvisation. Plus there are plenty of percussive colors to choose from since Temiz shows up with a cembe, an electric berimbao, a guica and an electronic pyramid as well as his regular kit. All the instruments seem to be played through electronic processing as well, with certain tracks even featuring Floridis on both bass clarinet and flute or clarinet at the same time. Overdubbing definitely took place in the studio, unless of course the reedist has the powers of a Greek god rather than a mortal.
Floridis is most impressive in non-doubled human form, though, such as on Stars, where his deep-toned, woody clarinet tone is mated with Skopelitis treatments that inflate guitar tones into massed, room-filling organ chords. Meanwhile Temiz has come up with sounds that appear alternately to be dice rolling or conga drum whacking. Adagio, Greetings from overseas finds Temiz shaking a bell tree to mix it up with what appears to be an acoustic guitar pealing out space-filling dissonant tones. On bass clarinet Floridis moves up and down in pitch as he plays, from chalumeau register to screech mode.
Queer, elf-like voices, ringing bells, what seem to be literal bubbles and electronic wiggles that could come from the pyramid or bow-and-gourd berimbao dont seem to faze him at all on Kula Baba Imperturbably he calmly plays his clarinet even when Skopelitis lets loose with a screaming electric guitar solo.
Most of the time as well, the overdubbed reed lines give Floridis a chance to add glissandos and other extended techniques to the traditional Greek-influenced melodies; he even sounds as if hes playing a melodica at one point. But there are also times where the rhythm team combine for sounds that seems to owe more to ProgRock than the Penloponnisos peninsula, and you start to remember that Vangelis got his start in the band Aphrodites Child with histrionic Greek vocalist Demis Roussos.
Despite these minor drawbacks, either of the CDs can serve as a memorable introduction to Floridis unique work, with the more overtly Greek F.L.O.R.O having a slight edge. Remember, you dont have to be wary of the gifts that this Greek bears.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Fly: 1.Pustseno 2. Sarki (to Yiorgos Fillippidis) 3. Lahana 4. Seriani 5. Stergios 6. Pavlos melas 7.Tis fotias (to Stamatis Bililis)
Personnel: Fly Pandelis Stoikos (trumpet); Vasilis Komatas (clarinet); Floros Floridis (alto saxophone); Vangelis Tsotridis (electric guitar); Nektarios Karatzis (bass); Nikos Psofogiorgos (drums)
Track Listing: Trip: 1. Nar cicegi 2. Pitch black 3. The ever sound 4. Happy elephant 5. Stars 6. Kulla baba 7. Night falls 8. Greetings from overseas 9. The light blue above 10. Gringos
Personnel: Trip: Floros Floridis (alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute); Nicky Skopelitis (electric guitars); Okay Temiz (drums, cembe, electric berimbao, guica, electronic pyramid)
June 16, 2003