Sokratis Votskos Quartet ‘Sketching the Unknown’ LP/CD (Jazzman) 5/5

‘Sketching the Unknown’ is the debut album from the Sokratis Votskos Quartet released through the UK’s Jazzman Records.

Much of Sokratis Votskos’s music has been defined by his desire to use it as a means of exploring his own past and his own heritage while intertwining it with contemporary styles and compositions seeking to carve his own new path as a result.

Votskos’s explorations have continued through further projects, most notably through his collaboration with Harris P and their Kolida Babo two-man outfit that is immersed within the ancient music of Armenia and the folk aesthetic of northern Greece interspersed with subtle twinges of electronica which pulls the music into a contemporary setting. Released in 2019 to tremendous praise and plaudits, their experiment was later aided by remixers including London’s Coby Sey and Ireland’s Who’s The Technician? who each tackled ‘Exodus’ from Kolida Babo’s self-titled debut taking the music even further into these disparate musical realms.

Votskos’s ability to transcend his message and his music through these various genres and styles is an incredibly inspiring trait – in the same year that Kolida Babo is introduced to the world, Votskos also played a key role as part of an ensemble recruited for Serafim Tsotsonis’s electronic and alternative pop project, ‘Believers’ before later that year unveiling the first single from the Sokratis Votskos Quartet.

For ‘Sketching the Unknown’, Votskos’s quest has found the perfect home under the banner of Jazzman Records. With their own ethos of scouring the world looking for innovative soul, jazz and funk music, the Jazzman catalogue grows with indelible strength with each passing year let alone the awesome run they seem to be having for subsequent 2020 projects including the fantastic new release from saxophonist Muriel Grossmann, ‘Elevation’, and the upcoming Vibration Black Finger project, ‘Can You See What I’m Trying to Say’.

With Votskos leading on soprano saxophone and bass clarinet, the album’s quartet is rounded out by pianist Leandros Pasias (Yako Trio), bassist Evangelos Vrachnos and drummer Kostas Anastasiadis (Xaxakes, Esy Tha Metanioseis), along with Votskos’ Kolida Babo partner Harris P enlisted for the album’s mixing duties as well. As a collective, the musicians here are unified in their vision of creating a canvas to bridge these two eras of jazz and music-making, in many ways, through stories within stories. And the clues are easy to find even from the glorious near twelve-minute album opener ‘Almopian Etude’ – a blissful track in its own pace and composition and a reference to the Greek mythological giant, Almops, who famously waged a war on Zeus and the gods of Olympus and went on to found the Almopian tribe.

So much of the music on ‘Sketching the Unknown’ is such a joy and as confident and self-assured as it appears when listening to it, the music by its very nature is perhaps more exploratory than anything else. The album’s Bandcamp page refers to the project as a “fusion album” but less a fusion of styles and more so of actual eras. Sokratis Votskos has set himself an incredible quest and whether or not he’ll ever truly find the answers he seeks, as listeners, we’re fortunate enough to at least bask in the result of his questions.

Imran Mirza