Traditional sounds explored through jazz

Backed by a new album, «Duente,» the group’s third in its eight-year history, the Athens-based ethnic fusion act Iasis will be playing its first show since the album’s recent release tonight at the capital’s Club 22 venue. The new album, featuring mostly instrumental tracks written by the group’s guitarist Costas Baltazanis with the support of the duo’s other core member, percussionist Petros Kourtis, comes as an export-oriented effort with a pan-continental release on international label Universal’s subsidiary Emarcy Records, a major player in Europe’s jazz and world music scenes. The album depicts the group’s continued exploration of traditional sounds, mostly from the Balkan region, delivered with contemporary jazz texture. «It’s a project that we feel is the result of a course that has enriched us with experience, maturity and faith in our sound,» Baltazanis and Kourtis noted in a joint statement. As has been the case throughout the core duo’s collaboration, Iasis has again been joined by several cast members for «Duente.» These include top-selling vocalist Eleftheria Arvanitaki – one of the country’s more popular artists abroad in recent years, particularly in Spain – on one track, as well as a series of guest musicians, including the domestically ubiquitous politiki lyra player Socrates Sinopoulos and bassist Yiotis Kiourtsoglou. Commenting on Arvanitaki’s guest vocal appearance on the track «In Southern Dusk,» the group’s two main men noted, «It’s a song with a melody which, from the very first moment, we thought would find its best interpreter in Eleftheria’s voice.» The album also includes an instrumental version of an older song that orginally appeared on popular singer Alkistis Protopsaltis’s «Pes Mou Thalassa» album. The track, «Antitheta Pia,» has been renamed «They Speak to an Angel» for Iasis’s instrumental version. Baltazanis and Kourtis noted that «Duente» was heavily influenced by the recent death of close friend and collaborator Vangelis Koliris, the duo’s regular bassist, who was replaced by Kiourtsoglou for the new project. «This work differs from our previous projects, as it was made under the emotional weight of a situation which marked our lives,» the twosome noted. «The loss of our friend and Iasis’s bassist Vangelis Koliris, to whom we wholeheartedly dedicate ‘Duente,’ accompanied us on an emotional level throughout the album’s entire recording process,» they added. Much of the new work, Baltazanis and Kourtis remarked, was gradually forged on stage in numerous performances. «The material on ‘Duente’ was worked and shaped, in crude form, over the course of numerous live shows, a process that helped us search deeply and carefully for the right atmosphere and sound for each track,» the duo noted. Commenting on future plans, Baltazanis and Kourtis said their aspirations included «generating emotional impact and atmosphere» through their sound, making «new friends through our music» and «managing to take our music and sound abroad.» Iasis emerged in 1995 as a guitar-percussion-bass trio playing its own material at Athenian venues before gradually enriching its sound’s texture with the addition of other instruments, such as violin, saxophone, politiki lyra, and clarinet. A year after their first shows, Iasis released their self-titled debut album, a well-received effort that led to several appearances at foreign music festivals, including the Mediterranean Jazz Festival and Nits De Mediterraneo in Spain. The band’s second album, «Amalgama,» was released in 1998. The duo’s previous collaborations have included working with the renowned multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek (for a series of concerts in Athens and Thessaloniki, not to mention Luxembourg’s Sacred Music Festival), George Dalaras, as well as the Bulgarian all-female vocal group Bulgarian Voices, which was a special guest on Iasis’s second album and also performed several shows with the Greek group here in Greece. Tonight, at 10 p.m., at Club 22, Athens (22 Vouliagmenis, tel 210.924.9814).