Tassos Spiliotopoulos Quartet

Wednesday 26 October 2016 8.30pm

“Compelling guitarist Spiliotopoulos creates dark, modal jazz… a band and a guitarist to watch out for.” – Time Out, London

“…Guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos, a six-string shredder clearly influenced by Allan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin, flaunts some impressive chops…” Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times

Tassos is currently touring the UK promoting his new album ‘In the North’. The line-up for tonight is Tassos Spiliotopoulos – Guitar, Örjan Hultén – Sax, Kevin Glasgow – Bass, Asaf Sirkis – Drums

Tassos has worked extensively with the Israeli born drummer and composer Asaf Sirkis and appeared on several of his albums.  All About Jazz says of Asaf Sirkis “Since arriving in London from Israel at the end of the end of the ’90s, Asaf Sirkis has earned a reputation as one of the world’s premier drummers”.  There is a consistent feature of Swedish saxophonist Orjan Hulten’s approach to music, which could be summarized as jazz is about more than just jazz and music about more than just music. His work is often imbued with influences from the Balkans and the Orient.  On bass tonight, Kevin Glasgow currently plays in a number of projects, including Tommy Smith’s ‘Karma’, the Asaf Sirkis Trio, the Sirkis/Bialas IQ, Seb Pipe’s ‘Life Experience’, the Nicolas Meier Trio+, and Preston-Glasgow-Lowe.

Originally from Athens, Greece Tassos Spiliotopoulos lived in London for over twelve years and since 2013 is based in Stockholm, Sweden. While in London Tassos quickly became a part of the UK Jazz scene and worked with many of the country’s top musicians. He also studied at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music & Drama (Mmus) and Trinity College of Music (Bmus, Hons).

Since the very beginning of his time in London Tassos has been touring with his own bands as well as numerous other creative projects, performing in clubs and festivals in over 15 countries in Europe, America and Asia. He has worked with artists such as Kenny Wheeler, Gary Husband, Asaf Sirkis, Dimitri Vassilakis, John Parricelli, Mike Outram, John Etheridge, and more.

In 2005, Tassos formed a quartet with three of the most talented musicians he has been playing with, Asaf Sirkis, Robin Fincker and Yaron Stavi. The idea was to create a fresh sounding, contemporary group that combines lyrical, extended-form compositions with high energy improvising. The Quartet’s first album ‘Wait For Dusk’ was released by Konnex Records in 2006.

Tassos’ second album ‘Archipelagos’ was released in 2010 on F-IRE records and featured special guests Kenny Wheeler and John Parricelli. The album was warmly received by the international music press praising Tassos’ distinct guitar style and unique compositional approach.

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Review

Since moving to London in 2000 to study music, Greek guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos has built a solid reputation as a technically gifted musician, building an impressive résumé of collaborations in a relatively short time, working with drummer/keyboardist Gary Husband, saxophonist Tim Garland, singer/multi-instrumentalist Eileen Hunter and guitarists John Parricelli, Mike Outram and John Etheridge. His debut as leader, Wait for Dusk (Konnex Records, 2006), featuring bassist Yaron Stavi, drummer Asaf Sirkis, and tenor saxophonist Robin Fincker, garnered positive reviews for its free-flowing lyricism and improvisation. In the intervening years Spiliotopoulos has gained further attention in Skirkis’ trio, lending a distinctive sound to its two excellent CDs, The Monk (SAM Productions 2008) and Letting Go (Stonebird Productions, 2010), both also featuring Stavi. The obvious chemistry that exists between these three musicians is again apparent on Archipelagos.

The sound of the sea and gulls opens the title track, with Spiliotopoulos’ little slide figures gliding sympathetically in what is, perhaps, a nostalgic nod to his homeland and its islands. Impressionistic, this is one of the shortest tracks and sets the mood for Spiliotopoulos’ more elaborate compositions. On “The Quest,” the trio is augmented by guitarist: Parricelli; Spiliotopolous tracing out the pretty melody, shadowed by Parricelli, before taking center stage with a fuzz-toned solo. Parricelli’s cleaner, sharper tone follows, providing a pleasing contrast; both propelled by Stavi ‘s industry, and the ever-busy, ever-inventive Sirkis.

Spiliotopoulos’ improvisations are like little bridges between the composed sections, though at times it is difficult to discern the line between the composed and the always melodic improvisations. Spilitopoulos’ patient, delicate explorations on “Secret View” could almost be notated in their precision, or just as easily be created on the spur of the moment, as he tip-toes in the background with Sirkis when Stavi’s melodic, unhurried voice comes to the surface, basking in the space, before the trio reunites to close out this impressive tune.

Trumpet veteran Kenny Wheeler guests on “Cosmic Motion,” either side of Spiliotopoulos’ extended solo, as Sirkis again provides the fire to stoke the band’s engine. Wheeler brings a welcome new color to the musical palette, but his relaxed intervention is teasingly short and doesn’t really shake up the dynamics.

The pace slows considerably on “The Prayer,” a lovely, subtle blues where the trio seems to be playing in slow motion. It’s a little like listening to a funereal version “In a Silent Way,” sharing some of the meditative, melancholy of keyboardist Joe Zawinul’s composition. Spiliotopoulos stretches out in freer style on the final two tracks see, first on the rockier “Out and About,” and then on the more jazz-inflected “Stepping Stones,” in both cases displaying impressive chops as the collective trio bristles with energy.

On Archipelagos, the highly respected Spiliotopoulos demonstrates that he is growing as a composer too, with well-crafted compositions that balance brittle lyricism with fiery improvisation. Hopefully it won’t be another four years before his next offering.

Ian Patterson, All About Jazz