Panayiotis Demopoulos: Nina’s Clock

review demopoulos x1 cong

A Greek pianist playing improv jazz with a classical bent and a local connection? This doesn’t happen too often.

This suite has 11 movements and is a reflection of moods, external stimuli and events as felt by the composer one night after recording sessions.

He tells the story that links the tracks in the sleeve notes and it opens: “I arrived at Macclesfield around white o’clock”…. It’s always white o’clock in Macc, my friend.

The album was recorded by Stephen Plews at ASC Studios in Macclesfield. Demopoulos offers no other explanation than the cryptic story, though he does visit a pub and a private school.

Demopoulos is one of those over-achievers we dislike (joking, Panayiotis): an established composer and pianist in contemporary classical music, he lectures at a uni, works as a high-level local government officer and is an accomplished composer and performer of modern jazz.

The music apparently had some preparation but is part-improvised on a structured skeleton and follows his travels through Macclesfield.

Opener White O’clock: Bad Hand is slow and thoughtful, and rather delicate, putting one in mind of a gentle summer’s day rather than the 3.15 to Macc.

Two O’clock: The Life Bone ups the pace; the cryptic notes claim the life bone was a sandwich, so the injection of carbs and protein into his blood stream lifts him from the slight torpor of the opener. Life Bone is also recognisable as jazz. It sounds technically impressive, particularly if he’s improvising. He opts not for simple expressive piano runs but creates a tension between his two hands.

Acts Of Heinous Violence is next, an odd title and a disturbing explanation: suffice to say, Mozart famously had scatological moments and so does Demopoulos. The sound is as odd as the title, jerky and never settling. It’s possibly a train he can hear while attending to his ablutions. Nina’s Clock: Glasgow Was recalls a clock in Glasgow and is back to a more tranquil feel.

That’s about the pace of the album, faster then slower sections; the jerky rhythm of trains seems to feature a lot, so maybe the overall air is one of a night on foot, stationary at times interspersed with movement, all the time within earshot of the West Coast line. The penultimate track is Eleven O’clock: Homebound Hiss, the only recognisable jazz the last track, Monk O’clock: Blue Tonk.

It’s solo piano so if you’re expecting any kind of traditional jazz you might be disappointed, and it leans more to the classical, but it’s pleasing, and technically (and imaginatively) impressive .

Out on Metier Jazz, MJD 72405.

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