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Wings and Air

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Album Review

Simopoulos was born in Baltimore, MD and studied her Greek ancestry from the root in that country, as well jazz at Duke University, the Naropa Institute, and the Guitar Institute of L.A. She plays deliberate, spare, wistful guitar and bouzouki, sings marvelously, and presents an uplifting, earthy, yet ethereal world-based music that captivates and compels one to explore it further. The nine selections here are comprised of the whole original Wings & Air session, plus three cuts from the previous release Pandora's Blues. Jim Pepper, Nana Vasconcelos, Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, and Jerry Granelli offer mighty assistance. The striking instrumental originals mark Simopoulos as a distinctive presence and a true inventor. The title track is most extraordinary: Haden's 9/8 ostinato bass buoys Pepper's flute and the guitarist's line, which is tripled by Ara Dinkjian's oud. Pepper switches to tenor for an otherworldly, rip-roaring ribald solo, while the leader's spare, lean solo defines her sound, truly a stunning AAA track. Pepper's tenor, with Simopoulos and drummer Granelli, enters into free discourse on "Jamming With the Animals" with the bass of Haden laying back. "Pulcie's Dance," also in 9/8, is Cherry's feature, using muted pocket trumpet to skitter about overhead, while overdubbed on the doussn'gouni (hunter's guitar). His strings join the guitarist, and Matthias Sudholter on didgeridoo lurks underneath it all, as percussionist Arto Tuncboyacian observes and embellishes on this organ of utter beauty. There are three vocal tracks: the 5/4 sweet piece "Time to Re" reflects upon time that's passed, with Simopoulos and Vasconcelos; the spirit song "New Moon" is sung alternately in Greek and English with Pepper's signature tenor and a deep bass solo by Haden; and "Nono Nana," with "yabba dee" vocals, again is a duet between Simopoulos and Vasconcelos offering call and response, melodic bouzouki, rhythmic berimbau, and wordless inserts here and there. The Pandora's Blues session has two cuts with Haden, drummer Billy Higgins, and pianist Tom Garvin. "Mitoon" is a slight samba with Ray Pizzi's flute, Garvin's delicate piano chords, and the leader's bouzouki, guitar, and introspective vocals prior to a double-timed bridge. "Through the Keyhole" starts with bouzouki in free dance with Haden before a tango rhythm takes hold led by Pizzi, whose throaty clarinet goes slightly squawky; a patented Haden solo is the centerpiece. The remaining piece, "Dare You," shows the guitar of Simopoulos with the atypical steely guitar sound of Joe Diorio, as synthesizer programmer Vassilis Dertilis establishes a pensive, spacy motif. There's also some neat trading between two stringed satellites. In a way, it's an uneven recording, but still, one that yields many bright moments from different perspectives. Whether Simopoulos favors the potent instrumentals or the more poppish vocals is to be determined, but both display attractive music and musicianship. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Genre: World

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Baltimore native Nana Simopoulos got her start in the music world early, learning to play the piano at the age of five. Unsatisfied with the instrument, she announced to her parents that she was moving on to the guitar, and started learning classical guitar. She moved to Greece soon after, and started getting into contemporary bands and artists. Her exposure to this music inspired her to play in rock and folk groups as well as keep up with her classical guitar studies. Once she turned 19, it...
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Wings and Air, Nana Simopoulos
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  • £7.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Jun 1986

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