Metamodal

Sokratis Sinopoulos Quartet

EN / DE
Four years after the critically lauded Eight Winds the Athens-based Sokratis Sinopolous Quartet returns with the aptly-named Metamodal. A unique band, the quartet subtly sifts a vast pool of influence, its music informed by the players’ experience of folk forms, Byzantine and classical music, and many modes of improvising.  The combination of Sinopoulos’s lyra, with its yearning, ancient tones, and the sensitive, modern piano of Yann Keerim is particularly beguiling, and the group as a whole has made giant steps since its debut. Metamodal, featuring new pieces by Sokratis and a concluding collective improvisation, was recorded in July 2018 at Sierra Studios in Athens, and produced by Manfred Eicher.
Vier Jahre nach dem von der Kritik allseits gelobten Eight Winds kehrt das in Athen ansässige Sokratis Sinopolous Quartet mit dem treffend benannten Album Metamodal zurück. Diese ausgesprochen unverwechselbare Band durchsucht auf subtile Weise einen riesigen Bereich aus Einflüssen. Ihre Musik ist von der Erfahrung der Spieler mit Folkmusiken, byzantinischer und klassischer Musik und vielen Formen der Improvisation geprägt. Die Gruppe als Ganzes hat seit ihrem Debüt große Schritte gemacht. Besonders betörend ist dabei die Kombination aus Sinopoulos’ Lyra mit ihren sehnsuchtsvollen, archaischen Tönen und dem sensiblen, modernen Klavierspiel von Yann Keerim.
Metamodal enthält neue Kompositionen von Sokratis und eine abschließende gemeinsame Improvisation. Das Album wurde im Juli 2018 in den Sierra Studios in Athen aufgenommen und von Manfred Eicher produziert.
Featured Artists Recorded

July 2018, Sierra Studios, Athens

Original Release Date

15.03.2019

  • 1Lament
    (Sokratis Sinopoulos)
    06:26
  • 2Metamodal I - Liquid
    (Sokratis Sinopoulos)
    09:33
  • 3Transition
    (Sokratis Sinopoulos)
    06:44
  • 4Metamodal II - Illusions
    (Sokratis Sinopoulos)
    10:29
  • 5Metamodal III - Dimensions
    (Sokratis Sinopoulos)
    07:56
  • 6Walking
    (Sokratis Sinopoulos)
    06:30
  • 7Dawn
    (Sokratis Sinopoulos)
    06:25
  • 8Red Thread
    (Sokratis Sinopoulos)
    05:17
  • 9Mnemosyne
    (Sokratis Sinopoulos)
    03:42
Was ist das nur für ein faszinierend klagender, ergreifender Ton? Sokratis Sinopoulos spielt Lyra, eine Fidel aus byzantinischer Zeit vergleichbar mit der klassischen türkischen Kemençe. Statt die Saiten mit der Fingerkuppe abzugreifen, berührt er sie nur seitlich mit dem Fingernagel, während die rechte Hand gefühlvoll den Bogen führt. Das birnenförmige Instrument hält er aufrecht auf den Knien, quasi im Schoß, der zierliche, hölzerne Korpus misst nur etwa 40 cm Länge. Und doch entlockt er den drei Saiten mit seinem Bogen diesen unverwechselbaren, fantastischen Ton. […] Ein ums andere Mal überrascht das harmonierende Quartett mit entrückt daherkommenden Klangwelten. Und nebem dem quasi omnipräsenten Klagemodus offenbaren Sokratis Sinopoulos‘ Kompositionen immer wieder dessen tiefe Verwurzelung in byzantinischen Musiktraditionen. Häufig beginnen die Stücke mit einer Art Taksim, einem langen, typisch orientalischem Vorspiel, das gewissermaßen den Tonvorrat und die jeweilige Stimmung festlegt, die dann besonnen im Team weiterentwickelt wird. Haften bleibt – sozusagen als Alleinstellungsmerkmal – die Lyra mit ihrem eigentümlich verwundbaren Ton, zugegeben, ein Ton, der zu Tränen rührt…
Andreas Kisters, Radio Bremen
 
Schon zum Auftakt, in ‚Lament‘, ist der sensible Gesang des Instruments unwiderstehlich. In den drei Teilen von ‚metamodal‘, insbesondere in ‚Illusions‘, durchwandert das Quartett dann ganz unterschiedliche Stimmungen: besinnlich, nachdenklich, klagend, meditativ, tänzerisch, forciert rhythmisch. Das entfaltet zum Teil eine märchenhafte Suggestion, eine wundersame Intensität, die einem die Kehle zuschnürt. Der Sound mutet teils uralt, teils zeitlos an. […] Hinzu tritt das Moment der Improvisation, weltläufig fließender Triojazz, der sich mit der elegischen Stimme der Lyra harmonisch vereint. Eine fantastische Aufnahme!  
Jens-Uwe Sommerschuh, Sächsische Zeitung
 
Unprätentiös, doch intensiv wird man ‚Metamodal‘ in eine Retro-Welt transponiert: zunächst kontemplativ durch Klavier- und Basstupfer, dann beschleungit durch folkloristische Perkussion. Und plötzlich bewegt sich dieses Refugium durch Improvisationen, löst sich von Skalen und öffnet sich dezent für Intonation und Interplay des Jazz mit byzantinischem Kolorit und vornehmer Attitude.
Hans-Dieter Grünefeld, Neue Musikzeitung
 
Der Schmerz, aber auch die Schönheit von Jahrhunderten scheint in dieser die Atmosphäre der Ägäis verströmenden Musik zu liegen, wohltuende Wärme und melancholische Sehnsucht, die sich von Zeit zu Zeit in lebensfrohen, quicklebendigen, fast schon zum Tanzen einladenden Passagen entladen. Ungeheure Tiefe, zerbrechliche Zartheit und ganz großes Drama fügen sich mit großer emotionaler Kraft in diesen acht neuen Kompositionen zusammen, die der griechische Lyra-Virtuose Sokratis Sinopoulos sich und seinem Langzeit-Quartett mit dem Pianisten Yann Keerim, dem Kontrabassisten Dimitris Tsekouras und dem Drummer Dimitris Emmanouil auf den Leib geschrieben hat.
Peter Füssl, Kultur
 
Four years after the critically acclaimed ‘Eight Winds’, this Athens based quartet return with the aptly titled ‘Metamodal’. Folk, jazz, Byzantine and classical influences all combine to provide a uniquely beguiling album. The coalescence of Sinopoulos’s lyra, with its yearning, ancient tones, and the sensitive, modern piano of Yann Keerim is fundamental to the textural warmth of this recording. Dimitris Tsekouras’s bass, especially when bowed offers a perfect counterpoint to the lyra, creating something of a tonal spirituality. The varied hues of Dimitris Emmanouil’s drumming add a brightness of colour where required, helping adjoin the overall sound of the quartet. […] The music captures the imagination in many ways, with the traditions of the past forging new and intriguing possibilities for the future. The gorgeous melodies are at the heart of the compositions, with an intensity and slick understanding of the pieces allowing all four musicians to collectively contribute towards a fresh and exotic sound that somehow links traditional knowledge and wisdom with contemporary thought and attitude. […] This integration of musical techniques, virtuosity and a shared enthusiasm to create music that ranges from pastoral to exhilarating, makes for a genuinely intoxicating album, and one that will delight many listeners no matter where their musical roots herald from.
Mike Gates, UK Vibe
 
This album takes the quartet forward with confidence, aiming to explore and extend modal music. All good jazzers will be familiar with a few modes, but we should remember that the Greeks invented it all a long time ago!  Sinopoulos says he aims here to not move beyond modes but to work through them…synthesizing something new on the way through the centrepiece tracks of the album:  Metamodal I, II and III. […] Overall, an intriguing and sophisticated album of chamber jazz with a distinctive Greek flavour from the modal framework and lyra’s yearning sound. The unusual feel draws attention away from Sinopoulos’ extraordinary gift for melodic invention.
Chris Kilsby, Bebop Spoken Here
 
Schon die CD ‚Eight Winds‘ des Quartetts, die vor vier Jahren erschien, wusste zu begeistern. Nun hat sich das Ensemble noch bedeutend weiter entwickelt. Es wagt sich in neue kompositorische Formen vor. […] Den Kern des Albums bilden die drei als ‚Metamodal‘ bezeichneten Stücke ‚Liquid‘, ‚Illusions‘ und ‚Dimensions‘. Sie verbinden die modalen Weitend es Jazz mit den Klangwelten des östlichen Mittelmeers. […] Dem Produzenten Manfred Eicher ist besonders zu danken für diese einzigartige Musik.
Manfred Papst, NZZ am Sonntag
 
Saiten, die aus der Vergangenheit in die Gegenwart flüstern […] ‚Metamodal‘ – der Name bezieht sich auf die modale Musiktradition aus der griechischen und osteuropäischen Musik, auf die das Quartett zurückgreift, und auf den Versuch, darüber hinaus zu gehen. Aus der modalen Tradition heraus eine eigene Klangsprache zu entwickeln, darum geht es viel in dieser Musik. Und zum Beispiel auch um die Balance zwischen einer Musik, die andere Tonschritte hat als die temperierte westliche Musik. Die Kombination der Lyra mit dem Klavier ist daher delikat: Sokratis Sinopoulos spielt Passagen mit mikrotonalen Abweichungen eben nicht parallel zu Linien vom Klavier, sondern an anderen Stellen.    Spannend ist es, diese Musik zu hören.
Roland Spiegel, Bayerischer Rundfunk
 
Gerade im Kontrast zum weichen Klang von Piano (Yann Keerim) und Bass (Dimitris Tsekouras)  sowie dem hellen Klang der Becken des Schlagzeugers Dimitris Emmanouil entfaltet die verschlossen klingende Lyra ihren eigentümlichen Reiz. […] Die Musik wirkt nicht nur  in ihrer unaufgeregten Präsentation wie ein Musterbeispiel für eine Art Neo-Modern-Jazz, der mit einer Kombination aus antiker Lyra-Tradition und Piano-Trio-Jazz etwas fragiles Neues schafft, das  den Hörer in eine unbekannte Klangwelt voller Kontraste entführt – fremd, berührend und auf eine spröde Weise schön.
Heribert Ickerott, Jazzpodium
 
In this recording we have a second installment of a quartet in which the piano trio is configured around the central voice of the Lyra–an instrument that exudes the ‘coolness’ of the ECM landscape while sounding utterly fresh and original. […]Those with a passing acquaintance of Greek or Cretan music may have witnessed this instrument in a traditional musical performance, supporting  spirited and percussion-driven dancing. It is the  very same undersized but potent instrument that takes the stage here, yet stylistically, we are in a different world. Eicher, has once again fiddled with the knobs to yield a sound that is visceral, icily vibrato-less, weirdly exotic as an erhu, but somehow also legato and lyrically compelling, and above all, whispering as if not to offend the sensitive ear. […]Yann Keerim is a superb pianist. His accompanying recalls the excellent textural work of Shai Maestro, but in his melodic right hand, there are connections to some of the great pianist on the label, including countryman Vassilis Tsabropoulos, whose ‘Achirana’ remains a point of reference for exquisite ECM piano trios. There is also something of the simplicity of Tord Gustavsen–the trio is comfortable with that ensemble’s muted and slow tempos. […]This session works very well, and upon several hearings, I discern a coherence to the project, a movement through modal territory, a brooding within the collective memory of ECM, and then, finally, towards the end of the record, a still center of musical beauty and simplicity.  This is a great achievement by both the musicians and the label.
Fritz Balwit, Audiophile Audition
Four years after the critically lauded Eight Winds the Athens-based Sokratis Sinopoulos Quartet returns with the aptly-named Metamodal. A unique band, the quartet subtly sifts a vast pool of influence, its music informed by the players’ experience of folk forms, Byzantine and classical music, and many modes of improvising, including jazz. The combination of Sinopoulos’s lyra, with its yearning, ancient tones, and the sensitive, modern piano of Yann Keerim is particularly beguiling, and the group as a whole has made giant steps since its debut. Metamodal, featuring new pieces by Sokratis and a concluding group improvisation, was recorded at Sierra Studios in Athens, and produced by Manfred Eicher.
 
Of the quartet and its progress, Sokratis says: “We are four people who continue to meet and exchange music and thoughts, braver now in experimenting with new concepts, and with the interaction between us. For me the quartet is the ideal group for exploring compositional ideas and new forms, and I really like the fact that we are able to keep the spark and the fire burning like it’s the first time we meet every time we play.”
 
The album begins with Sokratis playing his aching “Lament”, outlining troubled beauty against poignant chords in the piano from Keerim. The lyra at once embodies the qualities that Charles Lloyd has spoken of: “When Sokratis Sinopoulos plays, I can see all the history vibrating with the ancient sounds of the strings.”
 
The history of the lyra reaches back to the Byzantine era. “I’m very conscious of it,” says Sokratis, “and glad to play an instrument with such a long tradition. Of course, the history can also be a weight, a responsibility to carry. Especially where I live in Greece there are expectations of how the lyra should sound in traditional contexts, in folk music. I respect the history but seek to use it as a base from which to move forward, hoping to mirror the past and the future in my writing and improvising.”
 
The most forward-looking pieces on the present recording may be the three “Metamodal” pieces here, subtitled “Liquid”, “Illusions” and “Dimensions”. Sinopoulos: “From the compositional point of view these pieces are the core of the album to me. Starting from the modal system I know best, the medieval approach, I tried to create new dimensions and systems and bring them into what we understand as modality here in the Eastern Mediterranean region. In other words, creating new modes and developing them melodically, using the knowledge that we have of all the idioms we admire, including of course jazz, as well as contemporary composition. Sometimes the pieces were developed until I arrived at the point where the music became quite abstract, which I liked in this case.”
The album title has open-ended significance for Sinopoulos. Metamodal could be interpreted as “post-modal” but Sokratis reminds us that the Greek root meta also translates as among, between, behind and in the midst of and carries the idea of changed and altered as well. “I’m interested in all the meanings that can be implied by Metamodal.”  
 
Most of Metamodal was recorded, Sokratis notes, in a single day. On the second day, experiments were broached: “Manfred Eicher suggested we might record an improvised piece. At this point we had the whole album in our ears, so I asked the musicians to use material from ‘Metamodal II’, as well as material from the rest of the album as a basis for new music.” The result was “Mnemosyne”, the concluding piece on the album: “This improvisation is like a memory, or an echo, of the whole recording session.”
 
*
 
Born in Athens in 1974, Sokratis Sinopoulos studied Byzantine music and classical guitar as a child, and began playing the lyra in 1988, under the instruction of Ross Daly; within a year he was a member of his mentor’s group, Labyrinthos. He has since recorded and performed with numerous Greek artists and musicians from all over the world.
 
At ECM Sokratis has appeared on five albums with composer Eleni Karaindrou: Trojan Women, The Weeping Meadow, Elegy of the Uprooting, Medea and the recently-released Tous des Oiseaux.
 
It was after playing with Charles Lloyd (refer to the ECM album Athens Concert) that Sokratis Sinopoulos decided to take the step of leading his own group. “I have been influenced by so many musicians of many styles, since I was 15 years old but the experience with Charles, with his great talent for creating a story on stage every night through improvisation, sometimes free improvisation, was crucial for me, and gave me new confidence.”
 
In addition to his playing activities, Sinopoulos has been involved in research and production for the Domnia Samiou Greek Folk Music Association, has worked with the Centre for Asia Minor Studies on diverse projects, and lectured in the Department of Music Science and Art at the Macedonia University of Thessaloniki.
 
Yann Keerim began playing piano at the age of four and received his diploma in classical music at the age of 16. His compositions have been incorporated in numerous films and theatre productions. As pianist he has performed with jazz and ‘world music’ artists including Ara Dinkjian, Manos Achinotopoulos, and Haig Yazdjian.
 
Dimitris Tsekouras (born 1985 in Athens) comes from a musical family. He played piano, violin, guitar and drums before settling on the bass, which he studied at the Conservatory of Athens.
 
Dimitris Emmanouil graduated from the Music High School of Pallini, specialized in Greek traditional percussion and Latin percussion. He won the Greek Young Artist Award in 1997 and since then has worked with many groups of traditional Greek music and dance companies.
 
Sokratis Sinopoulos on his fellow musicians: “All three of them – Yann and the two Dimitris – have, like me, strong roots and knowledge and appreciation of the historic music of the region, the modal music not just of Greece but the whole Eastern Mediterranean and have performed a lot of it. Dimitris Emmanouil, for instance, spent every summer on the island of Ikaria in the East Aegean, playing bendir and darbouka in celebrations that would often last for days. Dimitris Tsekouras has played a lot of Greek folk music, as well as music of Italy. Yann Keerim has played with Syrian musicians, Armenian musicians and more. The very first time I heard him, he was playing with an Armenian oud player.
 
“All of this is very important, because we have a shared common knowledge of traditional music, and a shared feeling for its rhythms, and it forms the basis of our communication, even if that is not immediately apparent to a jazz listener. At the same time, each of the musicians is a creative individual, bringing his own ideas into music that is becoming more open-ended all the time. This keeps the collaboration interesting, because each concert can be a different experience.”
YEAR DATE VENUE LOCATION
2024 September 02 Festival Vielsaitig - Kloster St. Mang Füssen, Germany
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