Based in Athens, Tania Giannouli is a classically trained pianist and composer who has already performed or composed extensively for several multimedia projects including film, dance, theatre, video art and animated shorts. She is also a founding member of two improvisational ensembles and of Emotone, a project for eclectic new electronica ambient and modern classical with electronic musician and partner Tomas Weiss.

After recording Forest Stories in 2012, a collection of eight improvisations for piano and wind instruments alternating between avant-garde and free jazz with Portuguese reed player and improviser Paulo Chagas, Tania Giannouli and her newly formed ensemble have just released Transcendence in May 2015 last on Rattle Records.

Tania Giannouli Ensemble - Transcendence (2015)
Tania Giannouli Ensemble – Transcendence (2015)

Joined by Guido De Flaviis on saxophones, Alexandros Botinis on cello, Solis Barki on percussion and idiophones – and guest Giannis Notaras on drums – Transcendence is a perfectly balanced record allowing each instrument plenty of space and amplitude. If jazz and improvisation still underpin Giannouli’s approach, the nine new compositions arranged for her ensemble also borrow from classical or avant-garde (“Mad World”) and from Greek folk music (Sun Dance”), imparting an overall and consistent modern classical feel to the entire record.

Many tracks (such as “From Foreign Lands” for instance) could well accompany a short film or different movie scenes as the compositions seem to follow a classic storytelling arc – a short exposition followed by a radical rhythmic change rising to a climax and ending with a resolution. Dramatic glissandi on the cello, fluttering notes on the soprano saxophone and percussive shifts on the piano and percussions provide the underlying tension throughout.

For me, this music reflects on a wild and crazy world that surely cannot be all there is, and nostalgia for an as yet unknown happy future. Above all, this album is about my motherland. Tania Giannouli – cover notes

An ode to the Mediterranean maritime landscape and culture, the music on the album also echoes the ongoing government-debt crisis Greece has been experiencing over the last few years. Tania Giannouli’s passionate compositions and ensemble playing provide a superb creative response, thus “transcending” the narrow confines of economic and political issues dominating the current news feeds.