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September 2000

Elizabeth Kontomanou
Embrace
SteepleChase

Born in the south of France to a Greek mother and an African father, and now based in New York, singer and composer Elizabeth Kontomanou creates music as international as her roots. Embrace blends elements of post-bop jazz, African rhythms, New Age and contemporary classical influences. All but one of the CD's nine tracks are Kontomanou's compositions, which typically feature her dark, cottony voice floating over percussive patterns, interspersed with solos by American saxophonists Sam Newsome and J. D. Allen. (The other members of her quintet include two Frenchmen-her longtime collaborator, pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, and bassist Thomas Bramerie-and Senegalese percussionist Abdou Mboup.) Only a few tracks contain words, which is no great loss since Kontomanou's lyric writing consists of repetition of a single phrase ("To feel the light of you is enough to carry on") or ungrammatical rhyming ("That fire in the sky/Burning for you and I.") In its strongest moments ("Clear Blue Skies," "The Story Teller"), her music is trance-inducing, but much of the time it's a numbing blend of humorlessness and retentiousness.

Originally published in September 2000
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