- Morning Interlude
- Ojos Verdes
- Giant Steps
- New Life
- Sonidos del Pueblo
- Prelude to Adyssey
- The Tune
- Bob Like
Georgios Tsolis - piano
Francesco de Rubeis - drums
Stathis Elio - double bass
This is another fresh new set of musicians from the Royal Conservatoire
in The Hague. Like Azure, who I reviewed
a few years ago and who are still highly active, Georgios Tsolis and
colleagues are musicians who I have known for years and sent all over
the country doing gigs as part of my job at what is now called the
Career Development Office. Pianist Tsolis (pictured centre) is a highly
resourceful and talented person, and a constant source of surprise.
He's the kind of musician who will as soon start his own music festival
as much as just turn up and perform at one, has initiated concert
tours in Greece while still a Bachelor student, and is currently the
flavour of the moment at numerous top locations in The Netherlands.
You can get a little taster of this new CD from this short promotional
All but one of the titles listed above are Tsolis' own compositions,
and his arrangement of Coltrane's Giant Steps also slots
neatly into the programme, Tsolis making it his own without entirely
removing the identity of the original. His abilities as a pianist
are of course shown in abundance here, with typical warmth of expression
oozing from the solo which starts Sonidos del Pueblo, a number
which finally opens out into an urbanely stylish trio with De Rubeis'
brushes adding tinsel to a number which at times has a pleasantly
1960s cinematic retro feel. Tsolis at times likes to put the left
hand bass of the piano in unison along with Stathis Elio's plucked
strings which is always a grand effect, and while the piano carries
much of the music and is somewhat centre stage, the other members
of the trio are by no means stooges.
Tsolis' talents as a composer are admirably demonstrated on this CD, which has been recorded and produced to the highest standards. Rather than going in for a freestyle melody/improvisation pattern he tends to orchestrate everything pretty tightly: allowing space for a few solos from his performing partners, but rarely letting rip with risky flights of invention. An exception is one of Tsolis' more established numbers, The Tune, which has a life-enhancing Cuban-flavoured piano solo over catchy driving rhythms from drums and bass. Bob Like is a densely active and rousing finale, but if I have any criticism of the writing in these numbers it is a frequent tendency to throw the music into a kin o fsenitivity-dip soon after a promising opening. Morning Interlude sets the pattern, with an inventive and quicksilver first minute which then slows and thins out into clean lines and plenty of fresh air. I like this sense of openness, and of musicians actually listening to each other. We have more of similar in Neves however, which has a striking 'drive by night' minimal piano riff and some great chord changes, and then puts on the handbrake, again after 1 minute. This gives the music a chance to breathe and build once again of course, but the risk remains that this could become a mannerism rather than something which is involving and intriguing.
Disarming melodic simplicity are features of some of these numbers, such as the gorgeous slow New Life. Tsolis bathes us in romantic sensations in this kind of material but avoids too much sentimentality. This is 'safe' music, but so rich in good things that you'll forgive the lack of any real danger. The watchphrase is real refinement: a creative unity in terms of performance and musical content which reaps genuine rewards. Georgios Tsolis is 'safe' in the same way that Mozart-in-a-box is safe: you know he's not suddenly going to turn loopy and go all John Cage on us; but he still always manages to surprise when you lift the lid, and you keep wanting to lift that lid...