A sea of sound

by Maria Flip

Followed by a smooth transition in tone and tempo, the room was transformed into a film noir setting. The kind of music Iñáritu would probably use to dress his noir debut.

On the coldest night of the year, I found myself in Megaron The Athens Concert Hall. As I was walking with my friend down Vassilisis Sofias Avenue, with the cold wind frosting our ears, I realized it had already been months since the last time I had been to a gig and maybe three years since the last time I was at Megaron. My freezing heart was beating a bit faster and my excitement really trumped the amputating cold.

            We made it just in time to get our vaccination certificates checked and get situated. We were greeted by a gently stuffed and a divine warmth in Dimitris Mitropoulos Hall. The setting was simple, a piano, a saxophone and a set of drums in front of the wooden back ground. The hall seats approximately 400 people and it was full, despite Corona and the cold. The lights turned down at 20.35 sharp and the audience silently welcomed Stefanos Chytiris on drums, Ingrid Laubrock on tenor saxophone and Elias Stemeseder on piano.

            The introduction was short and precise and the complete silence of the room started to get dissected, slowly but surely, by a rustling of sounds and the parterre was transformed in a forest at dawn. A ritualistic awakening by the wondrous handling of the drum set by Chytiris, followed by the subtle twitter of Stemeseder’s piano, while Laubrock’s sound making set the breathing tone of the improvisation. The gradual transference from the white light to the warm tones of purple light in the room exaggerated the balmy embrace crafted by the musicians; an ambient resembling a relaxing stroll in woodland, in complete darkness, immersed in the vibrations of nature.

            There are many ways an improvisation concert can go wrong and there’s only one condition for it to work in the way that we experienced that night. The silent communication of the trio was accurate and the constant dialogue between the three was never loquacious and was throughout spot on. Stemeseder and Chytiris braided their sounds together in a tight chiaroscuro of simplicity and robustness, only to allow the craftsmanship of Laubrock to embroider an exciting but mellow pattern of harmonies and melodic presentations.

            Followed by a smooth transition in tone and tempo, the room was transformed into a film noir setting. The kind of music Iñáritu would probably use to dress his noir debut. Slow, soft and steady the drums, perhaps as the sounds of an invisible bar, incited an active dialogue between the saxophone and the piano. An ambience of a time and space so familiar and public, yet so intimate that could be the setting for a casual encounter of a crystal glass of whisky with a silent exchange of sights.

            Mesmerized by the rainbow lights on the keyboards of the grand piano, I was pleasantly kicked out of one space to another. Suddenly, a sea of sound flooded the theater. The piano disappeared under Stemeseder’s hands, forming a musical topos closely related to the seascapes of Turner; a roving crescendo, intensely captivating and far from deafening. Laubrock handled the sea storm with sageness, following the waves of sound and navigating what seemed to be a compact coordinated din, while Chytiris performed with rhythmical accuracy on this tempest.

            The outro of the show was a progressive decompression of the high barometric resonance of the previous part. Esoteric yet intriguing it invited an internal retrospection and submersed the crowd and myself into a vortex of thoughts under the casual musical conference of the trio. While lost in the expanse of an afterglow the musicians haltingly conducted us into silence and left us there pensive and replete. The only adequate response: a firm applause while the lights were turning on and we were all coming back to reality.

Follow Maria’s European Culture and Art reviews on our blog.

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