Savina Yannatou - Sumiglia
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Savina Yannatou

cd cover Sumiglia is Yannatou's first real record for ECM (after the worldwide re-issue of her live Terra Nostra). The production is nothing short of outstanding and the artistic collaboration between Yannatou and the ensemble Primavera en Salonico is without parallel in Greece today.

This leaves one in the difficult position of having to describe something that has reached a new level of excellence. What more is there to say about Yannatou's voice? It is an extraordinary force of nature. She sings like a method actor, entering the characters, hijacking them and making them completely her own, then releasing them just in time to move to the next one.

Primavera en Salonico are once again Savina Yannatou's collaborators and on this record the players are Kostas Vomvolos on accordion, qanun and kalimba, Yannis Alexandris on tamboura, oud and guitar, Kyriakos Gouventas on violin and viola, Harris Lambrakis on nay, Michalis Siganidis on bass and Kostas Theodorou on percussion. What may be the new aspect of this recording, compared to their previous work together, is the way the ensemble comes to the fore, entering into new dialogue with her voice. Assisted by ECM's typically flawless production, the room fills with the sounds of six musicians who each seems to be on his own taksim, making this very much their record despite another effortless and brilliant vocal delivery from Yannatou.

Yannatou has developed into something of an editor in her recent work, and on this record she collects and reinvents songs from many minority cultures - a Hungarian song from Moldavia, a Slavic song from Northern Greece, a Griko song from Grec�a Salentina. It is all about similarities and dissonances, about defining one culture within the context of another, more dominant, one. In this trip around the Mediterranean, words mix and changes flow into one another other: "sumiglia" (meaning similar in Corsican) - "somiglianza" (in Italian, similarity)- "symmixis" (in Greek, mishmash) all share simlar roots and point to the soul of this record, where differences morph into similarities and everything becomes one under the fire of Yannatou's voice. The themes are similar to those covered in the previous works, as well - love and desire in all its forms, destruction and war in their unique, grisly ways.

It's difficult to choose stand-out tracks: "Mui�eira" from Galicia, a region she has not tackled in the past; "Porondos viz Partjan," a traditional Hungarian song from Moldavia. In "Terra Ca Nun Senti" she registers a slightly lower scale than usual, delivering one of her signature performances to date. "Smarte Moj" is an Albanian song about a fallen soldier that sounds as if it was delivered from the other side of life. The record comes to a haunting finish with a Greek lullaby "Ela Ipne ke Pare to" (Come On, Sleep, and Take It) delivered by Yannatou with a solo kalimba accompaniment that sounds motherly and frightening at the very same time, as all lullabies should.

Yannatou and Primavera en Salonico have opened their wings from little Greece to the world with their new work, losing none of their unique charisma but gaining a technical perfection that gives the music clarity and power. Although Sumiglia is a part of the opus of works that this creative powerhouse has delivered in the past, it stands out, for the prominent role played by Primavera en Salonico, for its piercing selection of songs, for the choice of material from even further away lands and for the technical excellence of the production. - Nondas Kitsos

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Audio (c)2005 ECM and Savina Yannatou, used by permission

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