Off-Beat Music Sector – Rafalides’ Two New CDs: With Mimis Plessas and Manhattan Vibes
Two generations – one spirit. Emarel Music offers us a new CD release featuring a duo between the famous Greek pianist and composer Mimis Plessas and New York’s own vibes virtuoso Christos Rafalides.
Mimis Plessas can be summarized simply as the composer to the soundtrack of our lives. Generations of Greeks around the world have grown up listening to his music, as Plessas is famous for his compositions for most of the 1960’s black and white movies that many of us grew up watching. Rafalides was introduced to Plessas through a mutual friend after seeing him perform with his jazz group Manhattan Vibes in Athens. Naturally, Rafalides described himself as being intimidated and star struck in the presence of a living legend, but that didn’t stop him from passing along a copy of one of his Manhattan Vibes CD’s. The liner notes of their duo CD together tells us a story of how after Plessas heard Rafalides play he responded quite eloquently that the only thing they could play together is chess. I personally would like to know what a game of chess is like Mimis Plessas! However, they most definitely can play music together too, and after a two afternoon live studio recording the world is now pleasured to be able to listen to “We Two”.
The CD which is not only the first encounter of two outstanding virtuosos, but is also an encounter of two generations coming together in a single spirit of music. It opens with Rafalides on vibes playing the melody of “Ποιός το ξέρει” (Pios tο xeri) with beautifully emoted and enunciated improvisations. Shortly after enters Plessas on piano providing us the original melody and harmony as we remember from his original composition. This CD is a true beauty and addition to the Greek repertoire, as we have the chance to hear Mimis Plessas himself playing his compositions with the original intended harmony and melodies while Christos Rafalides brilliantly contributes his tone and stellar improvisational identity. This CD is a unique contribution to our ears as the instrumentation easily translates the Greek musical code into a universal musical language.
My favorite part of this duo is when Plessas and Rafalides come together in unison to give us the melody that we want to sing along too, then go into an improvised line of astonishing ability, and then just bring us right back into that melody. You can hear the appreciation of both artists styles and works as there even seems to be an embellished quote of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” on the track “’Ολα δικά σου μάτια μου” (Ola dika sou matia mou). It isn’t evident whether the two planned this quote or if it’s just a case of great minds that think alike. Either way… it’s a brilliant moment.
Christos Rafalides also offers us a new release with his New York based jazz group Manhattan Vibes called “Blue November” which is set for release on January 16th. Rafalides describes the project as a vehicle to express his feelings, which are stimulated by the multicultural lifestyle of New York. Although the group does not play traditionally in these styles, you will be able to hear elements of influence from Greek, Middle Eastern, Latin, Brazilian, and Indian cultures to name a few. This blend of multiple cultures in the style of jazz is their way of making the melodies and harmonies of these musics, as well as jazz, diverse and accessible to everyone.
A notable tune from this new album is “Love is a many splendored thing” in which the group takes a traditional 9/8 Greek rhythm and adds an altered version of a 2-3 clave rhythm to fit the Greek feel.
Both CD’s are for sale on EmarelMusic.com as well as at the Manhattan Vibes “Blue November” CD release party on January 16th. The location and time are TBD and can also be found on the Emarel Music website. It is also of notable mention that Christos Rafalides will be performing two shows at the beginning of February with the ERT Symphony Orchestra at the Athens Concert Hall in Greece.