CD review

Tania Giannouli Trio – ‘In Fading Light’

Tania Giannouli Trio – In Fading Light
(Rattle Records RAT-D105. Review by Adrian Pallant)

A trio led by a pianist – but not a piano trio in the expected sense. For, in new release In Fading Light, Tania Giannouli fashions a quite different energy with her Greek compatriots, trumpeter Andreas Polyzogopoulos and oud player Kyriakos Tapakis. Previous albums have found her atmospheric, experimental pianism creating less-obvious instrumental connections, such as Rewa with taongo pūoro player Rob Thorne and Forest Stories with wind player Paulo Chagas, as well as ensemble recording Transcendence. So Giannouli evidently relishes the challenge – as she confirms for this recording, wishing to “explore the beautiful textures, tonalities and emotional resonances that this combination of instruments offers”.

The apparent simplicity of this meeting of three acoustic voices is imaginatively augmented throughout – for example, blending sinewy piano and oud strings, or the sometimes initially intangible inflections of soft or cleverly percussive trumpet breath. Largely moody scenarios are expanded upon, with each instrumentalist sharing and intertwining their improvisations over the repeating and/or intensifying figures of Giannouli’s original music. Her recent solo performance in Brussels reveals just how much she probes the piano’s keyboard and internal capabilities with chess-master focus. So these evolving timbres contribute significantly, deepened by the ensorcelled Arabic auras of the oud.

Labyrinth’s lapping piano-and-oud ostinato sets the tone, with Polyzogopoulos’s breathy trumpet fluttering, whistling and shrilly ascending before its tension dissipates; but the angst returns in the urgent, muted rhythms of When Then, whose oscillating semitonal figure progressively heightens the drama. Weary, haunting trumpet announces and pervades the dour, waltzing folksong of Hinemoa’s Lament, while sustained, freeform Fallen features unsettling wheezes and seagull cries. An upward sense of purpose is felt in Night Flight’s rhythmically glinting piano and oud; and Bela’s Dance finds the album in its most fiery guise – whirling and pulsating to Giannouli’s heavy, muted low D, and imaginable as an extended live adventure.

The pliant magnetism of the oud is heard more prominently within pirouetting Ingravida and No Corner; and Tapakis’s solo feature – dusky Moth – underlines the instrument’s undoubtable elegance. Another seemingly extemporized trio episode, increasingly agitated Disquiet, is reminiscent of John Potter’s Dowland Project recordings for ECM; and there’s the unanticipated delight of Inland Sea’s contrasting, melodic repose before brief title track In Fading Light disturbs it with pointillistic restlessness.

Tania Giannouli Trio’s meditative weave can, in the right hour, be transportive (if, at times, edgy). It’s something which she personally feels, and which has been accentuated for so many over the past few months: “Despite what’s happening to our world at present, people need music. They need art. It’s not a luxury. It’s essential for our psychology, for maintaining health and balance – mentality, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and even politically”. That certainly strikes a chord.

In Fading Light will be released on 17 November 2020 / available from Bandcam

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