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19 Oct

Expanded Matrix - 2016

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Phos Duo - Antonis Ladopoulos & Sami Amiris

REVIEW by Jazz columnist and critic Sammy Stein.


“Expanded Matrix”
is the second album of ‘Phos Duo’, a saxophone-piano duo featuring saxophonist Antonis Ladopoulos and pianist Sami Amiris. Both musicians share the compositional and arranging duties.
The duo has a history of about a decade, but the collaboration between the two musicians in various other settings goes back a lot longer than that. However, since the duo’s formation, it has been one of the primary vehicles of expression for both musicians.
The gap between the recording of the duo’s debut album,“Phos”, and the present one, is considerably large, about seven years. The gap is justified. For one, the duo recorded the first album in 2009, but it was released three years later, by “Jazz’n’Tzaz” Magazine. In the meantime, the direction of the duo changed in so many ways, as people noticed at several shows in 2013; the material itself, as well as the compositional, improvisational and arranging directions and the whole modus operandi of the duo seemed worlds apart from the album - which was only a mere year old!
That was exactly what the next recording project would have shown. The plan was to record more than two CD’s worth of material and create a small series of albums with a central thematic core. Indeed, April and May of 2014 saw the duo at the Pierce Theater of the American College of Greece, recording a very
ambitious and taxing project in five gruelling evening recording sessions.
Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished. A significant portion of those recordings were damaged beyond usability, and so the recording project was basically killed before it saw the light of day, to the utter dismay of the musicians. It was a lucky occurrence that cameras were on location, with the idea that
video clips could be made if so desired. These cameras were the sole material witnesses of the project.
Thus the “Lost Sessions” video clips series was created, just using the audio from the cameras. As both musicians say, it was important “to let people know that the duo is still alive and active”.
In the meantime, the duo still evolved and changed, and continues to do so. “Expanded Matrix” is one step in what promises to be a long path of self-discovery for the two daring musicians. A part of the album, namely the namesake three-part large-scale composition “Expanded Matrix”, was to be a part of the cancelled recording project. In essence, the musicians plan to re-record the whole project, adding new material that has come up along the way, thus enlarging and expanding the originally conceived series. As the musicians say, it is a project that will span a few albums, first being the present one.
Their main goal is simple: to be themselves. “We don’t try to be just this or that. Why should we put limits? It is not our goal to make things easy for labelling our work. It is to express ourselves. We like listening to and doing many different things. Our music can very well be in any genre; there are so many beautiful flowers out there… but most of all, it is Phos Duo all the way.”
The pieces in the album are surely a direct testament to that. The music is very stylistically varied, with influences ranging from Contemporary Classical (“Expanded Matrix”) to Blues (“Five-Road Crossroads”) to Latin (“No and No”), and if the two extra songs are also considered, to Tango and Swing (“Whisper
Not”) to high-energy straight-ahead jazz (“Autumn Leaves”); however, none of the pieces are actually in those genres, only influenced by them: there are always factors that differentiate the music of the album from what is normally perceived as the genres mentioned. Originality comes naturally to the duo, it is not
novelty for the sake of novelty.

Track List
Expanded Matrix Suite - (19:43)
A. Ladopoulos - S. Amiris
1. Initiation (9:31)
2. Elegiac (5:45)
3. Procession (4:27)
4. Five-Road Crossroads (a.k.a The Greek Blues) (10:15)
S. Amiris
5. No and No (5:37)
A. Ladopoulos
Bonus Tracks
6. Whisper Not (7:58)
B. Golson
7. Autumn Leaves (7:10)
J. Kosma

Session recorded and mixed on July 23rd 2016 at Odeon Studios, Athens, Greece
Recorded and mixed by Ilias Lakkas
Artwork and design: Daphne Sevropoulou
Tracks 1 - 5 are released on CD-baby and bonus tracks 6 & 7 released on Loudr.


http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/PhosDuo

https://soundcloud.com/phos-duo/sets/expanded-matrix


“Ex.panded Matrix” is a three-part suite created with compositional techniques from the contemporaryclassical world, namely ‘serial’ music in particular. It was composed by Antonis Ladopoulos and Sami Amiris. The same twelve-tone series was used in all pieces, so the thematic material is the same in all parts of the suite. The first part, “Initiation”, is very improvisatory in character. Although it is throughcomposed, it is heavily based on the interaction of the two musicians. It has many contrasting moods, from ad lib to groovy, and is the longest of the three. On the contrary, the second part, “Elegiac”, is the shortest of the three and features almost no improvisation. Mood is the main focus. The third part, “Procession”, shows a more ‘middle-of-the-road’ approach: some parts of it are played verbatim, some are improvised. Controlled energy is the key here, until the explosive finale. The overall feeling of the suite is pretty close to contemporary classical, but with varying doses of improvisation and many different states of mind along the way.

“Five-Road Crossroads (a.k.a The Greek Blues)” by Sami Amiris, is an almost true traditional blues tune… with a twist. The main idea here is actually a question: how would the blues sound if the fundamental rhythmic core changed, but the blues language remained the same? This piece is just one possible answer of many to this question. For the music buffs out there, there is no traditional triplet feel here, as everything is based on fives (as in ‘quintuplets’). The meter of each section is ‘nine’, resembling the ‘Zeibek’ dance from the Eastern Mediterranean. So, this is a bonafide 45 = (4 + 5)  5 blues; also, “if it sounds like triplets, it probably is either 7 : 5 or ‘fives’ in groups of three”, as the pianist says. Still, the overall feeling is just the blues. Which shows that the language of the blues is so rich and powerful that it transcends all norms and survives and thrives in many different contexts.

“No and No” by Antonis Ladopoulos, based on the slightly modified harmony of a piece of a similar title by Wayne Shorter, is a very daring and explosive piece in 7/8 rhythm, revolving between modern jazz, salsa and brazilian music. For the musically trained, the rhythmic underpinning by the pianist is very adventurous, ranging from normal-ish salsa and samba to very heavy over-the-barline playing using all sorts of groupings and polyrhythms. As the pianist says, “if it sounds like triplets, most of the time it is 11 : 7”. All of this notwithstanding, the soloist brings a very relaxed and simultaneously energetic solo performance on the horn over the challenging background. The point here is not difficulty: it is energy. The next two tracks are not a part of the official release of the album, but included here as bonus tracks.

“Whisper Not”
by Benny Golson, slightly resembles something between a Tango and a languid Swing piece, without it actually being either. For the musically educated, the harmonies have been slightly modified, and the rhythms are usually in ‘fives’ and ‘sevens’, but still the overall feeling is a relaxed and simple rendition of the beautiful composition. The pianist passes through a small tribute to one of his greatest influences, the great, late Clare Fischer, whose “Excerpt from Canonic Passacaglia” seems to him like influenced by this song. The mood is of controlled intensity, and the saxophone delivers exactly that.

“Autumn Leaves” by Joseph Kosma, the well-known standard, is given a very explosive and highly energetic treatment here. Again, it is all based on fives, and the pianistic accompaniment is rhythmically very complex, but the saxophone plays with ease and control over it, making the whole experience very balanced. Energy and control. Overall, this album is full of antithetical elements, of styles brought out of their original context, co-existing with factors that usually are differently perceived, and of moods that seemingly could not be further apart from each other. Still, humans are capable of a vast range of emotive states, and the main goal of all music is, at least for Antonis Ladopoulos and Sami Amiris, pretty simple at its core: to create a direct link to the emotional world.
Energy. Feelings. Images. Time trip. For the two musicians, this is what music is about in a nutshell. Transporting the listener to another dimension. To a parallel universe, where the only thing that exists is the essence of oneself. Such is the power of music.


Visit Phos Duo Online: http://www.phosduo.com
Last modified on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 15:26