As a going concern, this is an album that effectively maintains a languid presence. Sometimes the artists stir things up a bit, but the occasional bursts of dissonance and clashes of notes are akin to ripples in a calm pool of water.
|Tania Giannouli & Paulo Chagas|
Collaboration with the portuguese wind instrumentalist and composer Paulo Chagas. A mixture of neo-impressionism and some contemporary european jazz, balancing elements of modal composition and free improvisation.
Their first album "Forest Stories" is now released by Rattle label.
Video for the track "In the deepest night" by Guillaume Baychelier:
You can download "Forest Stories" from:
You can get the physical here:
I was lucky enough to live near a forest for a few short periods in my life. Some of the music on this album was inspired by those times: the light, the reflections, the colors, the scents, the moods, the skies - moments that were absorbed then, but that continue to exist even though I am not in that place and time anymore. But what do we really know about Time? I often have the feeling that Time isn't expanding in a linear manner, but that its following its own journey in different directions and dimensions. I believe that trees have a better understanding of Time, and indeed of life itself, than we humans do. They are old, wise and strong, and they know so much about the seasons, about changing yet being the same, about the sun always coming out and shining after a terrible storm, about spring always following winter, about the cycles of birth and death, and that every step is a beginning and an end… and then a new beginning. If we listen to the forest, we may realize that our own microcosmos - our troubles, fears and pain - is but a small part of a far greater Reality… and it is not forever. In the forest, we sense what it means to find our way "home", to trust the life within, and to be nothing more or less than ourselves.
music is a place for encounters
a conjugation of sounds
the power of music resides above all in its
the canopy of music brings together people from the most distant places
Interview to Thanos Mantzanas (Avgi newspapaper). Read it here (greek)
Improvisation, silence, avant-garde, contemporary music of 20th century, jazz, classical music, meeting of two cultures (she is Greek, he is Portuguese), conflict of emotions, introspection and anguish, the penumbra of a forest, the moisture, the awe it causes. A musical painting that you can not just take a glance
Makis Milatos, April 2013, Athens Voice
Your album personnel: Paulo Chagas (alto & soprano saxophones, bass & sopranino clarinets, flute, bamboo flute) and Tania Giannouli (piano).
Opening track “Step By Step” establishes that languorous tone. Piano whispers soft words to bass clarinet when it hums a tune. Piano murmurs placating notes to bass clarinet when it raises up and shouts. The song ends with a dissolve into silence from which it began.
“Afternoon Forest Valse” begins with an abrasive tone. Soprano sax brings some tea kettle steam. Piano restricts its movements to a small area, while Chagas flutters about it.
“This Beautiful Hard Way” has Giannouli more active on piano, running up and down the length of a melody. Chagas, now on flute, pokes its head up and speaks at effective intervals. The beauty of this song isn’t easy to capture, yet has that unmissable quality of a glistening object in light.
“Is This Forever” and “Instead of Clouds” double back onto some territory already covered. Piano and sax keep in-step with one another, offering thoughtful statements that just hang in the air. Sax gets a bit querulous. Piano grows pensive.
While most tracks have an airy motion to them, there are moments of staggered fluidity, like the sharp strikes of piano and flute shrieks of “Spring’s Chronic.” And “In the Deepest Night” quavers with suspense and dark mystery.
The album ends with “The Way Back Home,” the closest thing to a conventional tune. Also, the album’s prettiest moment. A delicate melody, with expressions on sax and piano that respect the fragile state of things. And, in that it is preceded by seven tracks of a sparse dissonance and formless geometry, the closing song is made more marvelous by the way it allows the album’s various elements to coalesce in its final moments.
Dave Summer, April 2013, "Bird is the Worm"
Listening to this album is like seeing music embodied. Some emotions are shown, other hidden. Complex thoughts and primal (minimal) instincts are revealed, and as the music morphs into an organic entity one can perceive its distinct blueprint. Like someone you know, you can like this music or not, but you cannot deny its soul.
The haunting piano sets the canvas on which the wind instruments add colors, sometimes bright and vivid, other times saturnine and morose. This music is very visual, like a series of paintings, and the overall impression is that of an artistic, maybe surrealistic, self-portrait.
So this was the 2 paragraph review I did at the request of the label, initially for promotional use by the label, but which ended up being framed in the booklet of the release, something that really made me proud when it came to my knowledge.
Anyway, and with the booklet in my hands and the album spinning in my player, I can only stand by my previous appreciation, and then adding something to it.
It is true that, music like the one presented in this album do not normally find its way to this site, as Forest Stories is an experimental, mostly avantgarde and set on atmospheric and improvisation elements. Yet, and in the continuation of an already long and fruitful friendship with Paulo Chagas (see my reviews on many other projects by this exquisite player, such as Miosotis, Mispel Bellyfuland Zpoluras), and because when music is rich, textured and artistic there is no point in cutting it out just because it does not belong to a certain style, I just had to feature it here in Proggnosis, and develop a bit my initial review.
Forest Stories is a musical journey, mostly through introspective and atmospheric pastures, but always punctuated by difference and originality. The interplay between the two musicians is done in a, many times, bizarre way which seems as disconnected as wavering empathy. This fact, by itself, already demonstrates a strong personality and ensures a quality stamp, but the sheer emotions and states of mind, as well as the playing ability of the intervening musicians, end up taking the result to a whole new level...a level of their own.
There is plenty of contemplative moments here, as well as tense patters that transport the listener to very apart feelings and transmit different images. It is like wandering about in the forest, scanning its beauty but feeling crushed by its quietness and mysterious aura that can be so easily joyful as frightening.
In a more down to Earth analysis, and musically speaking, Tania Giannouli sets her piano to sound as the basis to the different emotions, while Paulo explores all that gamut of vibes, moods and feels with his experimental and tremendously avantgarde approach.
In the end, this is really not for the average prog listener. One must like free form jazz with lots of experimental and improvisation moments in order to fully appreciate this release. Yet, and as aforementioned, good music does not (always) comes in standard format, and if you happen to like those artists that perceive music as a form of art and that are bold enough to express their most inner thoughts (magical dreams, frightening nightmares) in an uncanny way, then you should really give this excellent experiment of an album a chance.
Nuno Lourenço, February 2013, Proggnosis
Although not on the Rattle Jazz imprint, these eight diverse, melodic and mood shifting pieces are pure improvisations for piano (Giannouli) and saxes/flutes/clarinets (Chagas) and evoke something of the timelessness, emotional space and natural power of the forests of the title.
Without much difficulty -- and let's be honest, pure improvisation along these lines can be hard going for most -- the thoughtful listener can hear elements of the players' classical training in melodic progressions as much as the nudges towards visceral free jazz when the energy is let off the leash.
From their quite different backgrounds (she Greek, he Portuguese) they find common ground in their willingness to take the risk of a blank page, extrapolate from emotional spaces (the repeated dark piano figure of This Beautiful Hard Way inviting the ballad treatment which Chagas explores on flute as her lines become more fluid and elevating) and not be fearful of space/silence.
There is also great delicacy here -- the reflective closing piece The Way Back Home -- and over the arc from the increasingly confident if dark opener Step By Step (which reads like a walk into a brooding woodland) through the evocative tones of Is This Forever? to those thoughtful final passages, this feels like a poetic journey through space and time as much as music.
Much more approachable and than the description "pure improvisation" might suggest because these players -- who have an intuitive understanding of each other -- can draw of vast traditions of classical and jazz for ideas.
Of and in the moment.
Graham Reid, New Zealand, January 2013, Elsewhere
"There is no need to play a lot of notes in order to make exciting music – the secret is to choose the right ones. That is what Giannouli and Chagas achieve with Forest Stories, an album of beautiful, impressionistic pieces that allow us to see that musical construction should be made in harmony with silence. The music on this album has great simplicity and clarity, sometimes pastoral, other times energetic, but always harmonious to the ear. I predict that Forest Stories will become a "must have" for fans of contemplative avant-garde."
Tania Giannouli is a Greek piano soloist from the Athenaeum Conservatory where she studied the piano and composition. Her current experience includes highly regarded compositions for theatre and film and improvisation. She is a member of “4+1”, “Schema Ensemble” and “Emotone”. Paulo Chagas is a Portuguese multi-instrumentalist (reeds instruments and flutes), teacher and music theorist, that leads and participates in many projects. Chagas has an extensive body of work, with compositions for ballet, opera, theatre, multimedia, orchestra, instrumental and vocal ensembles, electronic and computer music. His most significant work as a theorist spreads light into musical semiotics, music and media philosophy (Wittgenstein) or new media and music technology. Both of them have already performed throughout the world with great success.
In Forest Stories they join forces with great success to create evocative tunes that appeal to our inner senses and aural memories of the forest. Experts in their craft, the duo build and interweave their improvisational utterances with seeming effortless creativity and virtuosity. Each of the eight atmospheric compositions convey a rich sense of harmony, and are usually built around measured tempos and well contained dynamics. The rhythmic patterns are diverse and interesting, and the musicians modulate between modal approaches and free improvisation. This fine recording is highly recommended.
José Pessoa - Stockholm, September 2012, www.jazz.pt
Contemplative, esoteric, atmospheric music with elements of 20th century Avant-garde and free-improvisation, Forest Stories conjures magical, sensual images through sounds that cannot be categorized but that have a special, sometimes strange (bizarre) charm. This music has a very individual and personal character, vivid and painterly.