Martha Mavroidi Trio - Portaki
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Martha Mavroidi Trio
self-released (

I live in the desert of the American West. The average rainfall here is a scant 11 inches per year. Like many other desert dwellers, I look forward to rain, and I am drawn to songs about rain. In her song “Rain,” Martha Mavroidi sings:

Here comes the morning, as shy sun rises
with new promises the day begins again

Those words resonate with me. I find a new promise in rain, especially in those first rains after a hot, dry summer. She doesn’t sing those exact words. Mavrodi is from Athens and sings in Greek. But I feel the rain in that song. I feel the morning, the sun rise, the new day beginning. I feel that connection stretching across 6000 miles.

I already had these ideas in mind before I saw the video for "Rain." Those visual images begin with an arid landscape, complete with barren rock formations and the browns and golds of desert plants. And there is no rain in the video, nothing more than the promise of, the yearning for, the hope that comes with rain.

Mavroidi’s biography is intriguing. The daughter of an ethnomusicologist in Athens, she studied the folk music of Turkey and Bulgaria with stints in Amsterdam, Los Angeles, and at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. She sings and plays saz and lafta. And she built an electric lafta - she says it is the first of its kind.

The music on this record resonates with the folk music of the eastern Europe, but my ears want to label it jazz. It’s certainly a folky jazz, or maybe a jazzy folk. Mavroidi describes her music as a “blending folk melodies with jazz harmony and improvisation,” so my ears are not far off.

After “Rain,” the most gripping song on this record is “Spring” which leaps and jumps like a newborn lamb, the melody driven by a bouncing bass and light percussion. The lyrics are of flower blossoms and cool water, and you can hear meadows, pastures, and orchards in the music. Maybe this is agrarian jazz.

Another standout track is “Stian’s Dance,” dedicated to Stian Carstensen, the Norwegian guitarist from the band Farmers Market. Like many of Farmers Market’s tune, this one is angular and multi-faceted, moving effortlessly between multiple grooves and free improvisation. The electricity of the electric lafta really shines on this piece. Maybe this isn’t purely agrarian jazz after all.

Portaki continually draws me to the idea of new promise. The promise of the spring and the rain and the budding of flowers. The promise of blending music genres into a new sound that is both new and old. The promise of new instruments, new compositions, and new beginnings. - by Greg Harness

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