For Charles Lloyd and Maria Farantouri, the hope was to create a musical bridge between the old world and the new. The esteemed saxophonist and Greece’s “voice of resistance” met at the foot of the Acropolis to turn this dream into a reality. The resulting Athens Concert turned out to be a spectacular event, a melding of two cultures that exceeded all expectations.
The musicians involved include Lloyd’s outstanding quartet, which features Eric Harland (drums), Reuben Rogers (double-bass), and Jason Moran (piano), in addition to Lloyd’s own tenor sax, flute, and tarogato. Supplementing the lineup we have Socratis Sinopoulos (lyra), and a second piano played by Takis Farazis. It may have been the setting, or the addition of another piano, but Jason Moran was positively inspired this night.
In many ways, the show belongs to Maria Farantouri, though. Her voice is a stunning instrument, filled with the type of raw emotion one rarely hears anymore. Charles Lloyd compares her expressiveness to that of Lady Day (Billie Holiday) herself.
The “musical marriage” is best achieved during the three-part “Greek Suite,” which accounts for a large portion of Athens Concert. It is obvious that a great deal of care went into selecting the music for the suite. Utilizing sources ranging from ancient Byzantine hymns, to traditionals from the Black Sea and other regions, to contemporary compositions from Mikis Theodorakis, and Lina Nikolakopoulou and Nikos Kypourgos, the piece is majestic in scope.
The concert showcases some of Charles Lloyd’s most famous jazz music as well. The audience is clearly appreciative of his classic “Dream Weaver,” which follows the introductory “Kratissa ti zoi mou” (“I Kept Hold of My Life“) in the program. The subsequent “Blow Wind” is also a crowd favorite, and both provide opportunities for some notable piano work from Jason Moran.
The evening ends with a traditional piece from the Epirus region, “Yanni mou” (“My Yanni”). Second pianist Takis Farazis joins the group for a finale in which all of the various musical elements of the night come into play.
It must have been a spectacular sight, but for those of us who were not there, the two-disc Athens Concert will have to suffice. It is filled with not only beautiful, but sometimes challenging music and is a mighty testimonial to the strength of a dream shared by Charles Lloyd and Maria Farantouri.