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LETHE

Artist: George Haslam

Date of Release: 26/07/2019

Catalogue no: SLAMCD 333

Label: SLAM

Price: £9.50

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Nikolas Skordas, sop & tenor saxes, tarogato, traditional flutes.
George Haslam, tarogato, alto sax, zither.
With guest Sophia Koroxenou, voice tracks 8 & 10.

Music has the strength to act upon the soul, re-establishing its innocence and long forgotten wisdom …
“Lethe”- oblivion in our lives, like music, might be the proper preparation for the Exodus. (Nikolas Skordas)

"This album is a must for any jazz lover. Absolutely recommendable!" … jazz-fun.de

"George Haslam … is a great improvisor, probably one of the greatest in the history of jazz." Ken Cheetham, Jazz View


One of the benefits of running a CD label has been the opportunities to meet
and sometimes work with interesting musicians – for me this has included Stefano Pastor, Szilard Mezei, Mal Waldron, Borah Bergman, the Greek trio Outward Bound, many friends in Argentina and, more recently Steve Cohn and eminent Greek composer and reedsman Nikolas Skordas. Nikolas recorded 2 previous CDs on SLAM, duos with Alex Maguire and Alexandros Aivaliotis.
I went to visit him in Thessaloniki, December 2018 where we played a few gigs had a workshop and also in Athens. I took my tarogato, also various sax mouthpieces and zither, ( It was my first outing with zither, I have experimented with sounds, I like the natural acoustic feeling) and he played soprano and tenor saxes and various ethnic flutes, bagpipes etc…

We recorded a session in Shellac Recording Studios Thessaloniki, with vocalist and byzantine psalt singer, Sophia Koroxenou, who had made the tour possible and also joined us surprisingly on the last minute in the studio .

The music of course is improvised.

 

Reviews

 

15/08/2019 Matthew Wright

Many JJ readers will know of George Haslam from his Slam label and his past associations with leading British improvisers such as Paul Rutherford, Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill and Paul Hession, and collaborations with Mal Waldron, Arturo Sandoval and Charlie Mariano. He has also played extensively throughout South America and Europe and here he is partnered by leading Greek saxophonist Nikolas Skordas,
The music may well be outside of the experience of many readers with its leaning towards folk elements and experimentation, but much of it is firmly fixed in the jazz tradition which extends the explorations of sound, patterns and textures. There are tracks which are overtly more folk-orientated, using instrumentation not usually associated with jazz – the zither and tárogató, a small reeded Eastern European instrument, used in the past by Charles Lloyd and Peter Brötzmann. These serve to evoke a spiritual, often contemplative and meditative feel that is at times complemented by bells and the voice of Sophia Koroxenou, giving a denser backcloth on which the improvisation lies.
There are passages of real beauty and intensity and a less worldly reviewer might have seen greater significance in the sudden glimpse of the green-domed mosque as the train on which I journeyed whilst listening passed through Willesden en route to Marylebone.
The passages that stood out tended to be those with Skordas’s soprano and Haslam’s alto played in tandem, creating patterns around each other, on The Windows, Conversations With Birds (Haslam on tárogató) and Spiritual Fall – moments of mellow resonance and purity of sound, with blues-tinged inflections – Haslam is never far away from his mainstream roots. The fragmentation of Life In Wrong Way is resolved as their own musical conversation develops, as is the initial dissonance on No Plans.
I found the introduction of a bagpipe on the title track less attractive, and although it soars effectively above the density of voice and zither, the wider range of the more melodic soprano saxophone gives a more potent use of space.
Matthew Wright https://jazzjournal.co.uk/2019/08/14/george-haslam-nikolas-skordas-lethe/

 

01/08/2019 Ken Cheetham

I have, unusually, included the track names as I think that they do allude to the general meaning of the complete piece. In classical Greek, Lethe (Ληθη) means ‘forgetfulness’ and is related to the Greek word for ‘truth’, i.e. ‘un-forgetfulness’. The River Lethe from Greek Mythology has often appeared in Western culture since those early times. Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy (1308-1320) refers to the stream of Lethe as ‘flowing to the centre of the earth from its surface’, while almost five centuries later John Keats wrote ‘No, no! Go not to Lethe’ as the opening line of his Ode on Melancholy. Lord Byron told us that ‘Thetis baptized her mortal son in Styx; A mortal mother would on Lethe fix.’ (Don Juan: 1819-1824). Not to be outdone, the French joined the fray in the poem of Baudelaire, Le Spleen de Paris, (1869): ‘He failed to warm this dazed cadaver in whose veins, Flows the green water of Lethe in place of blood’.

George Haslam is a tour de force on baritone, but relinquishes it here in favour of the alto. It makes no difference to his power, musically, as he has been around the avant-garde and improvisational for fifty something years. He is a great improvisor, probably one of the greatest in the history of jazz.

His duets here with Nikolas Skordas are based entirely on free improvisation and the duo are occasionally bolstered by the freely improvisational vocals of Skordas’ wife, Sophia Koroxenou. Skordas is a thoroughly studied jazz musician, whereas Haslam is essentially self-taught. At the same time, Skordas says that he is a performer and composer and that his music is a continuous, spiritual quest. That will suit both these artists and they won’t find much more spiritual than this heady album that is much brighter and cheerful than its references might suggest.

Reviewed by Ken Cheetham https://www.jazzviews.net/george-haslam--nikolas-skordas---lethe---lambdaetathetaeta.html

 

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