The Greek-Swedish sextet Ahanes (Αχανές in Greek, meaning vast) gathered for the first time in Stockholm in December 2021. Greek sax player Nicky Kokkoli traveled to Stockholm to play in a FRIM-initiated project with British vocal artist Maggie Nicols, while guitarist Giannis Arapis came to Stockholm to perform with Swedish keyboards player Alex Zethson’s 13-piece ensemble and VÖ during Zethson’s label Thanatosis festival. Ahanes’ debut album Petrichor (Πέτριχωρ in Greek, meaning the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil) was recorded in the same month at Studio Clavier in Stockholm.
Apparently, Kokkoli and Arapis never played together though both live in Athens. They initiated the recording session with their Swedish comrades – drummer Nils Agnas, bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg, trombonist Mats Äleklint and Zethson. Ahanes recorded four pieces – two modal tunes by John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, the opening, iconic «India» (originally released on Coltrane’s Impressions, Impulse!, 1963) and the closing one «Canon» (originally released on Mingus Moves, Atlantic, 1974), «Piper» by Zethson and the free improvised «Sand».
The atmosphere of Petrichor is clearly unpretentious, like an uplifting, slow-cooking and organically flowing jam session of close friends. Äleklint and Kokkoli sing together gently the theme of Coltrane’s «India» (originally released on Impressions, Impulse!, 1963) while Ahanes cooks patiently its intoxicating, electric fusion groove. «Sand» keeps the unhurried dynamics but highlights the exquisite and sensual guitar work of Arapis together with the subtle but driving double bass pulse of Zetterberg and the free-associative, and singing voices of Äleklint and Kokkoli. The short free improvisation «Piper» adds more urgency to the close interplay and the breezy electric jazz groove. Mingus’ «Canon» is performed as a lyrical spiritual piece and, again, stresses the natural, unhurried interplay of Ahanes.
Thieves’ Lair suggests the more experimental side of Arapis. He recorded a remote session with the Japan-based guitarist Kawol Samarqandi (described by his Soundcloud page as the «enigma of ancient Samarkand»), who studied traditional Arabic music, before focusing on free improvisation, founding his own label PLAKA for EARDRUM, and refining in his own way the delicate minimalism of Loren Connors.
Arapis plays in the five duets an acoustic guitar with flatwound string while Samarkandi plays an acoustic flattop guitar and an electric archtop guitar. Arapis always focuses on establishing the guitar as a melodic voice in avant-garde music by showing how one can create chaos within melodic phrases. Both Arapis and Samarkandi introduce tasteful and subtle dissonant doses into the breezy, introspective melodies of Thieves’ Lair, and navigate freely and organically between country blues, jazz and minimalism. The minimalist and most beautiful «Arachnoid Anthropoid» and «Mark with a Buoy» capture best the great affinity and the open, delicate dynamics that Arapis and Smarkandi have established during this remote session.
Nicky Kokkoli (s), Giannis Arapis (g, acoustic guitar with flatwound string), Mats Äleklint (b), Alex Zethson (keys), Torbjörn Zetterberg (b), Nils Agnas (dr), Kawol Samarqandi (ac. flattop g, el. archtop g)