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Petros Klampanis: Irrationalities (Enja)

A review of the Greek bassist/composer’s fourth album as a leader

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Petros Klampanis, Irrationalities
The cover of Irrationalities by Petros Klampanis

This delicate yet muscular recording reflects bassist and composer Petros Klampanis’ desire to, according to the liner notes, evoke “living in an imaginary city that combines Greek and European culture and New York culture” and to create music “between having a structure and at the same time breaking free of structure, being open, discovering life.” Joined by pianist Kristjan Randalu and drummer/percussionist Bodek Janke, Klampanis jettisons the larger themes of his previous two albums for something more intimate, and in doing so, the Greek native finds even greater profundity of expression (if not freedom from structure).

Klampanis gets more mileage out of carefully constructed trio arrangements than many musicians realize with a 16-piece big band. The title track is a case in point. After an unusual vocal-harmony introduction, the trio boldly enters before dropping to piano only, which establishes the song’s pace and rhythm, followed by a brief Klampanis solo. Piano, bass, and drums tap-dance like sprites through a windy, through-composed section, then change to hushed dynamics for a more focused Klampanis solo, a further through-composed moment, piano solo, minor Afro-Cuban rhythmic section, expansion of the piano solo … you get the idea.

These dense arrangements endlessly repeat, leaving the listener exhausted but sated by record’s end. Does Irrationalities recall a big city, be it in Europe or the U.S.A.? I’m not sure. The album feels more welcoming than any city I know. More than hurried workers, homeless encampments, or waves of tourists, Irrationalities recalls a Swiss watch working at peak performance, a dazzling, multifaceted thing of beauty.

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Watch the video for “Irrationality,” from Petros Klampanis!

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Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef was once a jazz drummer; then he found religion and began writing about jazz rather than performing it. (He continues to air-drum jazz rhythms in front of his hi-fi rig and various NYC bodegas.) His reportage has appeared in Time Out, Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Stereophile, and Electronic Musician. Ken is the administrator of Facebook’s popular Jazz Vinyl Lovers group, and he reviews vintage jazz recordings on YouTube as Ken Micallef Jazz Vinyl Lover.