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Charles Lloyd’s unique sax playing always sounds voicelike, but even more so on this live show from an Athens amphitheatre with an old friend, Greek singing star Maria Farantouri. The music’s grip hardly slackens, from the quiet opening to the poem I Kept Hold of My Life to a thundering finale of traditional Greek songs powered by folk-dance rhythms, funk and loose jazz swing, played by Lloyd’s regular band plus two local recruits. […] Lloyd’s sound is like nobody else’s, and this unusual album is a fascinating setting for it.
John Fordham, The Guardian

The saxophonist’s airy tone and ululating warbles blend with and elaborate Maria Farantouri’s precise diction and classical vibrato on this live Greek-themed 2 CD set, recorded last year. Charles Lloyd reigns in the rhythmic daring of recent gigs and opts for folkloric laments and pentatonic musings. Pianist Jason Moran adds bouncy mid-register jangles, and Socratis Sinopoulos and Takis Farazis add authenticity on lyra and a second piano. Three “Greek Suites” are jazzy variations of traditional music, Lloyd originals include “Dream Weaver”, and there is a Mikis Theodorakis cover.
Mike Hobart, Financial Times

Geht es am Ende in der gut hundertjährigen Geschichte des Jazz nicht immer um die Kunst des Melodiespiels und die in ihr eingeschlossenen Emotionen? Der Saxophonist Charles Lloyd beherrscht sie. Egal, ob er sein Instrument leise summen und murmeln, röhren oder schreien lässt – er führt es vor als die Ausweitung seiner Stimme. Im Juni 2010 hat er das „Athens Concert“ mit der Sängerin Maria Farantouri eingespielt. Es reflektiert die Beziehung zwischen Saxophon und Stimme in einen weiteren Rahmen: Für die Begegnung mit der Sängerin, die in den sechziger Jahren an der Seite von Mikis Theodorakis zur Ikone des Widerstands gegen die Militärdiktatur wurde, hat er eine Auswahl aus traditionellen und zeitgenössischen griechischen Hymnen und eigenen Stücken zusammengestellt, im Zusammenspiel mit dem Lyra-Spieler Socratis Sinopoulos und dem Pianisten Takis Farazis. Im steten Wechsel zwischen Vertrautheit und Erstaunen erkunden die vier die Verästelungen ihres Materials und verwandeln es in ihre eigene Musik. Maria Farantouri und Charles Lloyd, die Sängerin und der Saxophonist, sind verwandte Seelen, die einander mit ihren Simmen becircen. Energie ist ihre Gemeinsamkeit.
Stefan Hentz, Die Zeit

With Lloyd’s saxophone curling around the singer’s rich contralto, they make music of deeply spiritual beauty.
John Bungey, The Times

Saxophonist Lloyd’s work for ECM over 22 years forms a redemptive arc, re-establishing him as one of the greatest of all contemporary jazz artists. His latest quartet is also one of his best ever. For this historic concert recording from the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the band are joined for some songs by vocalist Maria Farantouri, a famous interpreter of Theodorakis, and two further Greek players on lyra and piano. Lloyd sounds on absolute top form, burbling soulfully.
Phil Johnson, Independent on Sunday

Lloyd’s horn and Farantouri’s contralto share a tonal range, and the two musicians share a gift for imposing their own world on silence. They occupy the same rapt emotional domain. […] When she interacts with Lloyd, they go together to a spiritual place deep beneath the lyricism. In “Journey to Kythera”, from a score by the great Greek film composer Eleni Karaindrou, and in Lloyd’s “Prayer”, where Farantouri improvises without words, voice and saxophone become manifestations of a single impulse. In “Prayer” and several other tracks, the lyra of Socratis Sinopoulos enters, a yearning, sweet sound of extraordinary poignance.
Thomas Conrad, Stereophile

That music spanning many centuries, and with roots in locales thousands of miles apart, can somehow find such common ground is, perhaps, “Athens Concert’s” great success. With both Lloyd and Farantouri spending considerable prep time immersed in each other’s traditions – and with the open-minded and increasingly joined-at-the-hip-talents of the saxophonist’s quartet and this project’s Greek guests – this 87-minute concert manages, at any given moment, to fit contextually within the oeuvre of either artist’s lengthy career. It’s not all that uncommon for artists to attempt the fusion of two seemingly disparate traditions, but it’s all too rare that they succeed to this extent, with “Athens Concert’s” seamless confluence suggesting, perhaps, a pre-existing link that was just waiting to be discovered.
John Kelman, All about jazz

Farantouri, as emblematic a singer in Greece as Piaf was in France, though with more political and intellectual resonance, joined Lloyd´s great quartet last year for this moving marriage of their respective cultural traditions. The mutual respect of the principals is shared by Lloyd´s Jason Moran-Reuben Rogers-Eric Harland rhythm section and Socratis Sinopoulos (lyra) and Takis Farazis (piano/arrangements). But the credit for the success of the encounter probably rests with Lloyd´s uncanny ability to assume the colours of a different musical and literary culture and to grasp its emotional freight. His tenor does it with everything from contemporary Greek composers and poets such as Theodorakis to early Byzantine hymn, and shows extraordinary affinity with Greek traditional material, becoming a superbly contrasted, lyrical voice to Farantouri´s stunningly dramatic contralto.
Ray Comiskey, The Irish Times

The earthy but quasi-mystical tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd has done some fantastic work with his current quartet, which features the pianist Jason Moran. “Athens Concert”, on two discs, captures the group in collaboration with the celebrated Greek vocalist Maria Farantouri, finding a middle ground between respective traditions.
New York Times

Simple, melodic lines morph into full, sweeping gestures of emotion with an economic balance of light, shadow and space. Odd time signatures subtly blend with, rather than dominate, the overall swing-flavoured pulse. Some of the tunes are traditional, some are Lloyd´s melodies and a number are by famed composer Mikis Theodorakis, to whom Farantouri has been a career-long muse. Moody and minor-keyed for the most part, the performances vary in texture and mode: instrumental and vocal, with English, Greek and Byzantine lyrics. Some include additional Greek personnel: Takis Farazis on piano or Socratis Sinopoulos on the lyre, a stringed instrument popularized in the classical Mediterranean. Lloyd himself stretches out on tenor saxophone, flute and tarogato, the nasally sonorous cousin of the clarinet. (...) Two different sources of music met, fused and created a new proposition (...)The melodies, which are part of the Greek suite, are age-old and have a primal sound. Charles´ sensitivity and inquisitive spirit, as well as that of the excellent musicians, transformed the material into a new contemporary sound…” “Athens Concert”, produced by Eicher, fits well into Lloyd´s recorded legacy: another concert album – like “Live in the Soviet Union and Forest Flower: Live at Monterey” in the ´60s; “Montreux and A Night in Copenhagen” in the ´80s – that captures timeless music performed in a special time and place. Yet it stands out as well, a remarkable set of music that comes across as such an organic endeavour when in fact the necessary preparation was “pretty rigorous”, according to Moran.
Ashley Kahn, JazzTimes

The way in which she and her two musicians combine with Lloyd and ehat is arguably his finest group astonishes. Lloyd himself is at his most elegiac on this record but Jason Moran rises just as spectacularity to the occasion, while Rogers and Harland play with an unrivalled sensitivity. There are too many wonderful moments to count here – a gorgeous “Requiem” with a lyric in Greek by Agathi Dimitrouka, three lovely tunes by Theodorakis (“Cactus” and “Gardens of Paradise”) plus two beautiful suites arranged by pianist Farazis of traditional songs and I haven’t even scratched the surface.
Duncan Heining, Jazzwise

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.
Greg Barbrick, Blogcritics

Charles Lloyd and Maria Farantouri, “Athens Concert” (ECM, two discs). With Stan Getz and John Coltrane so long gone, Charles Lloyd is the possessor of the most beautiful tenor saxophone tone in the known world—the guardian, really, of unrestrainedly beautiful sonority on his instrument.
Jeff Simon, Buffalo News

Maria e Charles, notte sull’Acropoli – Due storie diverse. Due storie lontane. Due storie di musica e di vita. Due universi sonori che si parlano e che si aprono l’un l’altro in una sera magica di giugno dell’anno scorso sul palco dell’Odéion di Erode Attico. [...] Il suo sassofono ventoso fa da contraltare al vibrato di questa meravigliosa voce da contralto, consumata, scura, dai toni violacei, percossa dalla vita.
Corriere della Sera - Bologna

This CD offers the listener a fascinating opportunity to hear one of jazz’s best small ensembles in a new context and tackling material from a completely different culture.
Sam Braysher, Jazz Journal

The greatness of this concert from Athens lies in the ease with which all the elements fall into place and in the emotion that exudes from the whole. (...) Charles Lloyd says that human voice captivates us more swiftly and directly than any other instrument. Perhaps that is where the greatness and complexity of his success lay. (...)The addition of the strong personalities on stage must have removed the foundations of the Acropolis and awakened the gods from their slumber. What a Bacchanal!
Carlos Pérez Cruz, El Club de Jazz

An einem warmen Juniabend im vergangenen Jahr gaben die beiden am Fusse der Akropolis in Athen ein Open-Air-Konzert, das auf eindringliche Art deutlich macht, wie nah sich die verschiedenen Welten kommen können, wenn sie sich den stilistischen Dogmen entheben: Während sich die beiden Protagonisten dieses freundschaftlichen "Clash of Civilisations" den melodischen Luftraum teilen, sich gegenseitig umspielen, unterstützen und in immer luftigere Höhen treiben, agieren auch die Musiker im Maschinenraum dieser Begegnung - Lloyds Rhytmusgruppe und die zwei Musiker, mit denen Maria Farantouri regelmässig arbeitet - wie ein sorgfältig ausgewogener Organismus, kraftvoll pulsierend, mit differenzierten Klängen die melodischen Bewegungen untermalend und voller Phantasie die Leerstellen zwischen den Genres füllend. Falls es wirklich eine Weltmusik gibt, die Grenzen überschreitet: Hier ist sie zu hören.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Farantouri’s classical vibrato, clear diction and enunciation belie the soulfulness of her voice that Lloyd initially identified with and this collaboration is surprising, sumptuous and at times breathtakingly beautiful. Lloyd’s airy tone has an almost effortless ease but it’s not without ist drama, and the lengthy three parts of the „Greek Suite“, which borrow heavily from traditional songs, provide a setting where all can shine.
Simon Holland, Properganda

Nun ist die Musik beider erstmals in einem opulenten Programm auf zwei CDs zu hören. Zeit, Gelassenheit und eine Seelenverwandtschaft über das übliche Tagesgeschäft hinaus kennzeichnen sie. Sein exzellentes, seit vier Jahren festes Quartett mit dem famosen Pianisten Jason Moran, dreieinhalb Jahrzehnte jünger als Lloyd und eine der wichtigsten Stimmen des aktuellen Jazz, ihre Stimme, um zwei authentische griechische Musiker ergänzt, wachsen zusammen zu etwas Größerem. Melancholie, Power und Emotionalität in diesem feierlich, nuancenreich und gravitätisch zelebrierten Reigen von 18 Stücken aus beiden Herkunftskreisen ergeben eine zeitlose Musik, die Brücken schlägt zwischen Kulturen, Weltgegenden und Epochen.
Ulrich Steinmetzger, Thüringische Landeszeitung

`A musical bridge between our two world´s is how saxophonist Charles Lloyd describes his collaboration with Greek singer Maria Farantouri, but - as with a numer of similar ECM projects - the resulting music is so seamless, so natural-sounding, as to be almost sui generis. (...) (Maria Farantouri´s) rich, affecting voice blends beautifully with Lloyd´s tradmark spiritual warble, but with Moran in particular bringing an adventurous jazz sensibility to the mix, there is just enough grit in the musical oyster to produce a pearl of an album, melancholy, celebratory, hypnotic by turns, but always profoundly moving.
Chris Parker, London Jazz

La performance è commovente, sublimata con dolenza in una musica intensamente mistica.