The juxtaposition of traditional Mediterranean and Northern European music with viscerally exciting free improvisation as such a startling transformational device that you realise at once Elektra Kurtis and Ensemble Elektra has achieved its stated mission goal to illuminate a new vantage point into three musical worlds.
Elektra Kurtis and Ensemble Elektra’s repertoire is like music heard in dreams long ago and now suddenly remembered, and loved, and deeply missed. The references to other composers, as to late Bartok in ‘East West’ and the ‘Trebble Duet…’ series are mostly to music the composers never wrote, but perhaps always imagined. This is music that Elektra Kurtis has written in the prime of her career. The former piece is named so for its ethereal nature and because of the seemingly endless worlds that Kurtis inhabits. The latter piece collectively called ‘Trebble Duets…’ and performed in three movements dominates the repertoire; after a careening journey through richly harmonic tonal but absorbingly unpredictable soundscapes, the movements fall – one after another – into the trance of a dizzying fantasy.
Other pieces, such as ‘Bossa for Kitsa’ dance with the brilliance of a young Jobim, rich with pizzicato, arco and double stops. Its stoked finale lends itself, and, indeed the whole song, to being a popular encore number. And watch out for ‘Like Rocks’, a crafty work deftly rendering a ‘duotone’ counterpoint (composed of what seems like multiphonics) so inextricable form the music’s conception that it’s hard to think of the music without the violinists’ subtle yet distinctive mannerisms.
The rest of the members of the Ensemble Elektra – and this does not only mean Curtis Stewart – have much in common with the pursuit of Elektra Kurtis herself. They share an extreme sensitivity to the way the leader layers sound and use harmony to affect the listener’s soul; the different make-up of their personalities makes their musical journeys each completely individual. Each as in varying degrees relatively impervious to using charm alone to get their ways. Their journeys through Bridges From The East works very well in this cool hip way; the absence of portamento becomes a strength when you fall under the Ensemble Elektra’s spell.
The theme-and-variations of the music is bittersweet and passionately phrased; you can feel the heat on the players of Ensemble Elektra’s necks at the end of the disc.
Track List Triton; Hasaposerviko; Red Apple; 334; Trebble Duet Nr. 1; Zeibekiko; August 7 (for my mother); Eastern Caravan; Like Rocks (for my mother); Kalamatianos; Trebble Duet Nr. 2; Krakus; East West; Bossa for Kitsa; Trebble Duet Nr. 3; Summer’s End.
Personnel: Elektra Kurtis: violin, composer; Curtis Stewart: violin; Lefteris Bournias: clarinet; Bradley Jones: electric bass; Reggie Nicholson: drums.
Label: Milo Records MR 301
Running time: 1:08:03