The distinctive cry of Sokratis Sinopoulos’ lyra has previously been heard on ECM recordings of Charles Lloyd/Maria Farantouri (Athens Concert) and Eleni Karaindrou (The Weeping Meadow, Elegy of the Uprooting, Medea). Sokratis has played a key role in the revival of interest in the lyra in Greece, both in traditional music contexts and in the shaping of new music. To see him in concert for the first time is to marvel at the range of emotion and expression conveyed through the lyra and the power of the sound projected from this small, bowed instrument.
Eight Winds, the debut album of the quartet and Sokratis’s leader debut for ECM, was produced by Manfred Eicher at Sierra Studios in Athens in April 2014. The reflective compositions and yearning ballads on the album cede the central melodic role to the lyra, sensitively supported by the piano of Yann Keerim and the subtle bass and drums of Dimitris Tsekouras and Dimitris Emmanuel.
But there is more happening here than a cross-referencing of folk instrument and jazz trio.
“We’re not ‘fusing’ anything,” Sinopolous cautions. “Each of us has acquired and internalized a lot of knowledge and experience of different styles, before approaching the others. The spirit of the recording session, and also with Manfred Eicher’s direction as producer, was very free. In my one recommendation to the other players, the night before the session, I said: ‘Especially in the solos, if you find yourself playing something that could be easily described as ‘jazz’ or ‘folk’ or ‘classical’, then try and avoid it. Without censoring ourselves, let’s find instead the common roots of our improvising’.” One unifying factor is “the basic modality, which we all relate to, because of our backgrounds.”