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Monday, March 18, 2024

John Dikeman/Aleksandar Skoric/Giotis Damianidis/Petros Damianidis live @Giapi, Thessaloniki, March 16th, 2024

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

In the post-pandemic era, at least in these parts of Europe, there still exists the thrill of catching the energy of live music. One of the many results of the Covid dystopia is that it left us in Greece with very few opportunities to enjoy a, for a nevertheless marginalized music as John Dikeman put it before the gig, live act.

This Balkan (as the Damianidis’ brothers come from Greece and Skoric from Serbia) with a little help from America alliance is Dikeman on tenor saxophone, Skoric on the drums, Giotis Damianidis on electric guitar and Petros Damianidis on the double-bass. The first leg of their tour started in Thessaloniki and it will take them to Northern Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria.

The four of them played for the first time as a quartet, even though they know each other –at least in duo formations. Their free jazz with a lot improvisation take on music was a joyous affair of high energy, free thinking blowouts. There are certain moments when you don’t expect (or don’t know, or, even, just wait for the shadow of the impromptu to cover you tenderly) something in particular, and the music, the players that they produce it, offer you the best way to forget anything that bothers, itches or hurts inside you. This night was one of those instances.

Even though this is a free jazz quartet that plays in unison, a procedure that consists a lot of listening and caring, I can’t and won’t avoid a mention to Aleksandar Skoric. Having never caught him live before, I was not prepared. Not prepared for his energetic, organized chaos of joyful polyrhythmic drumming. Not prepared on how much he enjoyed it, letting go, playing and interacting outside the codes. His drumming resembles and combines the ecstasy of children that play games and the ferocity of the best drummers around at this time.

But, obviously, Skoric was not alone. Dikeman was equally eager to offer us sax blowouts and wait fervently, stepping aside for his fellow players. Notes were spitted and growled with aggressiveness. Petros Damianidis, a quiet force for the quartet, managed what seemed to impossible, considering the volume of their sound. He was an equal partner, using the double-bass as a percussive instrument too. Giotis Damianidis utilizes his electric guitar as a bridge. He fills the gap between intensive rock playing, improvising at moments, while –with the help of effects- creating his own idiolect, one that has ears for his fellow players.

When we talk about improvised music, there shouldn’t be surprises (because you are surprised only when you expect “bad” and you get something “good”), only expectations. Expecting that the music will transcend you, fill you with joy or whatever other feeling is there. I already mentioned that this night was one of those nights, and many of us felt it from the start. Catch them live, if you can.

By the way, Giapi means building under construction.