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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Christos Yermenoglou –Birth (self released, 2021) ****½

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

The following review was written before knowing about Christos’ sudden death due to COVID, which was announced by his family this past weekend. There was a small interview that never materialized, and I haven’t changed a word since hearing the sad news. Aside from his work internationally as improvisor and percussionist, Christos was also a dedicated teacher and composer for film and theater. This text is dedicated to his memory.

This solo album from Greek percussionist Christos Yermenoglou is free jazz, even though it doesn’t need to show it. Freed from any restraint, Yermenoglou presents a solo effort that is mostly looking towards the East (there are similarities in this orient feeling with the duos of Don Cherry with Ed Blackwell) but, definitely, as forward looking as any good free jazz album.

Birth is playful, sometimes totally energetic, other times soothing and calm. As someone can notice from the front and back cover, Yermenoglou utilizes a lot of small percussion instruments, other small reeds, toys, too many to mention, too many to ask what is what. Enough to make this album a one man band, a totally improvised effort. There’s a constant flow of ideas, sounds and energy. There is no second wasted in both sides of the vinyl, as it came out only on this form. The Greek percussionist seems eager and willing to start from scratch: each new idea is explored to the full, paving the way for the next one, sometimes connected, other times proving something fully new.

He defies the current trend (and I am not commenting that in a demeaning way) of percussionists who resort on electronic manipulation on solo efforts. His approach, on timbre, melody and rhythm (in sound making in general) is acoustic only. Some may comment that he is a bit old fashioned. I do not agree plus every track on Birth is working. The drum set is rarely the main focus and this is a challenge for every drummer I guess. Instead of this, by utilizing so many different sound sources, every time he takes a willing risk.

Yermenoglou has worked with a lot of important name in the field of contemporary improvisation. All those small tracks build a unison and Birth feels like new departure for him and the album is, I believe, appropriately titled.