Sweet, Sour, Sharp & Soft
Booklet notes for JazzWerkstatt JW 041

Motivated and resourceful, saxophonist Floros Floridis is arguably Greece’s most accomplished improvising musician. A world traveler, he’s best known in the jazz world for his collaborations with like-minded experimental musicians, most notably the late Wuppertal-based bassist Peter Kowald and drummer Günter “Baby” Sommer of Dresden. At the same time Thessaloniki-based Floridis – who with pianist Sakis Papadimitriou recorded Greece’s first out-and-out Free Jazz session in 1979 – has always made a point of encouraging other Hellenic players along the path to Free Music. “Free Improvisation is my favorite method of creating music,” he says. “It’s the one I respect and believe in the most.”

This CD from Grix, his new trio, is a notable example of this philosophy. Over the course of one dozen instant compositions, the 55-year-old veteran, who plays alto saxophone, bass and Bb clarinets here, hooks up with two prodigiously talented younger performers from his home town, in a session recorded there.

Pianist Antonis Anissego (born 1970) and drummer Yiorgos Dimitriadis (born 1964), now both live in Berlin, where Floridis is also a frequent visitor. After extensive academic studies throughout Europe, the well-traveled Anissego composes and performs orchestral, chamber and theatre compositions throughout Europe and in Asia. Still, as his playing on this disc demonstrates, he also posses a fine jazz touch and sensibility.

Dimitriadis moved from rock music to studies in Boston with master jazz drummers Alan Dawson and Bob Moses, and then was exposed to Free Music through Floridis-organized gigs in Thessaloniki. During a decade in Paris, the drummer played in French jazz groups, and latterly gigs with legendary American bassist Sirone as well as with Grix. On this disk, Dimitriadis’ powerful beat is impressively balanced by his rhythmic flourishes and quicksilver tempo changes.

All the tunes on Sweet, Sour, Sharp & Soft involve sonic cross-pollination, which means that each trio member contributes his fair share to the success of the CD.

To take one example, a track such as “Sarsoumades” matches Anissego’s thick piano chording with growling, irregularly vibrated split tones from Floridis, plus sharp cracks and doubled pops from Dimitriadis’ toms and snare. As the reedist erupts into harsh staccato cries, the pianist’s high-velocity, contrasting dynamics almost levitate the keyboard, while the drummer steadies the presentation with rim shots and rebounds.

Similarly, Anissego’s internal string-stopping and plucking evolve in triple counterpoint with sul tasto bass lines and diaphragm-vibrated clarinet squeals on “Melekouni”. Continuing to improvise in the chalumeau register, Floridis’ key percussion and tongue slaps eventually become rougher and his split tones more detached, although he’s perfectly accompanied by irregular wood-block and gamelan-like pulses from the percussionist.

Jokingly Floridis explains that “Grix” doesn’t really represent anything in particular. However the “Gr” does reference “Greece” – and note that every tune title is replicated in Greek characters as well as regular script. Meanwhile the “ix” gives Grix a gritty contemporary look. Certainly single-minded toughness is one of the musical qualities exhibited on this CD, along with extrasensory mutual interaction and profound technical skill.

In fact, although taken together the adjectives may suggest contradictions; alternatively “sweet, sour, sharp and soft” is how these extraordinary improvisers play on this notable and highly original date.

Ken Waxman ( Toronto July 2008