Charles Lloyd, American, not only the most lyrical but frankly the most conversational of jazz saxophonists, is a musical orator and curator of quiet fire. Maria Farantouri, well on her way to legend in her native Greece, is a singer who delved into protest but went deeper, when times allowed, into politics, surviving murk and compromise with her contralto intact.
To the Herod Atticus Odeon at the foot of the Acropolis came Lloyd's quartet. Faratouri brought herself plus Socratis Sinopoulous on the Greek lyra, and Takis Farazis on occasional backup piano to Lloyd's main man Jason Moran. Inevitable that these friendly but disparate parties should form their own distinct weather system, but first, exchange of gifts. Lloyd brought lyrics and music to his "Blow Wind," invocation to the flow that blows love — and Farantouri, singing in English for this once, sends it downwind into evening stillness.
The singer counters with a 3rd-century Christian hymn. Everyone agrees, agreeably, on terms, and by the second disc, distinctive zephyrs fulminate. Moran picks out notes pointillistically, letting short, sharp pings suggest the star-filled skies, then lets loose a legato cascade for a land-lumbering river.
Farantouri's mostly on songs she knows, from ancient traditionals to hailed modern classics from Mikos Theodorakis (another Greek straddling music and politics), but Lloyd, Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland stick with and around her like they've learned this language, too. Harland finally pounds the crowd to attention. It's time for a ritual toast, to friendship, and to melding.
Album: Athens Concert
Artists: Charles Lloyd and Maria Farantouri
Songs: (1) Kratissa ti zoi mou (2) Dream Weaver (3) Blow Wind (4) Requiem (5) Greek Suite Part I-Hymnos stin Ayia Triada (6) Epano sto xero homa (7) Messa stous paradissious kipous (8) Taxidi sta Kythera; Disc 2: (1) Prayer (2) Greek Suite Part II-Vlefaro mou (3) Margaritarenia (4) Thalassaki mou (5) Greek Suite Part III-Epirotiko meroloi (6) Kaegomae kae sigoliono (7) Mori kontoula lemonia (8) Alismono kae haeromae (9) Tou hel' to kastron (10) Yanni mou