Volume 2 of this very intriguing series continues with another previously unreleased set by the progressive Greek musician Kyriakos Sfetsas (Κυριάκος Σφέτσας) and his band, which is essentially a selection of recordings made around the same time as Volume 1 in 1976 and 1977. And as per the previous release, recognisable Greek musical scales, (well, the Greeks did invent them!) that are commonly used within traditional Greek folk music are blended with jazz musicianship in addition to some slightly avant-garde moments to create something which to this writer is quite unique and incredibly interesting.
The first track, ‘On a Folk Mode’, is a perfect example of this cultural fraternisation which takes place throughout the recording; an initial gentle nod to Greek musical sensibilities with its classic clarinet melodies before the more bebop-esque solos begin. ‘The Widow’ initially radiates an experimental bent with its discordant piano string runs and distorted guitar drones, before it evolves into a full-on fusion heavy piece with its strong playing and improvisational work taking over from about the midpoint onwards. ‘40 Steps’ is a more piano-led composition, but again it transcends over its duration as it travels from typical jazz conventions into utilising fascinating Mediterranean motifs and stylings.
The fourth track ‘Seliani’ exploits an electric lute, which is essentially a contemporary version of the ancient plucked string instrument, which is a fairly broad term for a variety of similar instruments found across Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. ‘Seliani’ itself possesses an almost medieval quality before its jazz attitude permutates. The final two tracks ‘Imprints’ and ‘Alternative Aspect’ are the most jazz-like, so to speak, but both also divert from their original elements, taking them away from the characteristic jazz records of the mid-70s era.
I’m ashamed to say that I missed Vol. 1, of which the UK Vibe review explores the history of the series in more detail, although, Vol. 2 appears to be somewhat more ‘jazzy’ than Vol. 1. The history of Greek jazz is broad and multi-layered with Athens continually possessing a strong live scene over the past few decades, but a vibrant and diverse experimental music scene has also existed within Greece including experimental electronic music (I’ve previously lectured on this topic), and ‘Greek Fusion Orchestra Vol. 2’ highlights some of this experimentation but from a jazz perspective. And thus, this series may not be for everyone, but it is in no way a challenging listen as is some of the more extreme contemporary experimental music. This is definitely a jazz record but one that is quite unique in that it generally avoids many of typical mid 70s jazz tropes associated with the genre.
Additionally, record label Teranga Beat possesses an extremely strong discography of esoteric releases from numerous sources, including obscure African and Greek recordings which should definitely be investigated.