Album reviews

Tania Giannouli: ‘Solo’

Tania Giannouli: ‘Solo’
(Rattle Records RAT-D139, Review by Frank Graham)  

Recording for New Zealand’s Rattle Music for over a decade now, Greek pianist Tania Giannouli has rightly been compared to the great pianists associated with ECM Records. Her music traverses the boundaries between jazz, free improvisation, European classical and Eastern musics, and her current projects include Hemera with Daniele Roccato and Michele Rabbia, the brilliant one of a kind trio heard on 2020’s In Fading Light, duo projects with Nik Bärtsch and Arve Henriksen, and a quartet The Book Of Lost Songs with Maria Pia De Vito.  

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For her fifth Rattle release Giannouli perhaps faces the ultimate challenge, a solo recording. Having limbered up with a series of unaccompanied concerts that began in Mannheim in 2020, Giannouli acknowledges the magnitude of the task in her album notes: “Alone on a stage, one is compelled to be truthful, not to hold back or fake anything, and to allow yourself to be vulnerable.”  

Not only does Giannouli hold nothing back, but over the course of 72 gripping minutes she leaves no corner of her instrument unexplored. Recorded in glorious detail at Athens Concert Hall by George Kariotis and Alex Aretaios, the album’s 24 jewel-like pieces together form an intoxicating mosaic. The material includes fully-worked compositions, open-textured improvisations and short mood pieces exploring extended techniques, and with a few notable exceptions Giannouli’s focus is largely inward and contemplative.  

Difficult as it is to pick out highlights, the hypnotic dances of “Intone”, the pellucid beauty of “Broken Blossom”, the dark interior dramas of “Transportal” and the momentary bliss of “Light Sleeper” are close to perfection. “Novelette” shares a certain sepia-tinged romanticism with Paul Bley’s classic “Ida Lupino”, and I was particularly taken by the shorter and more experimental pieces such as “The Call”, “Punkt” and “Hidden”, which punctuate the music’s flow with a fleeting sense of disquiet.  

Further confirmation, if confirmation were needed, that Giannouli is an essential artist to watch, Solo is a privileged window into a restlessly creative mind. 

LINKS: Solo on Bandcamp
Interview with Tania Giannouli from 2019

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