Greek pianist Tania Giannouli discovered five years ago the music of Rob Thorne, New Zealand, Māori leading exponent of the traditional ngā taonga pūoro instruments (flutes, trumpets and mouth harps made of conch shells, wood and stones), while listening to his album «Whāia te Māramatanga» (Rattle, 2013). On May 2017, less than a day after Giannouli met Thorne for the first time, they recorded their first album in Athens. Steve Garden, the owner of the New Zealand Rattle label – that released Giannouli latest albums, «Forest Stories» with Portuguese woodwinds player Paulo Chagas and «Transcendence» with her ensemble (2012 and 2015), added later some subtle treatments to this spontaneously improvised meeting.
«Rewa» is much more than a meeting between two skilled and enthusiastic improvisers. In a way, it is also a meeting between distinct musical world and cultures, the Western Greek and the traditional Aotearoa of New Zealand. The classically trained Giannouli has a Western perspective to composing and improvisation while Thorne lives the ancient sounds and practices of his Māori heritage. But both were not bound by their own personal histories or legacies. The open – without a safety net – improvised spirit of this meeting allowed them «to be led by the free flow of unforced musical events as they happen in the moment». This approach challenged them to find new, exciting means to connect and re-contextualize their musical worlds, ideas and sounds.
«Rewa» reflect the deep-listening approach of Giannouli and Thorne. Most of the pieces are concise, radiating a strong sense of curious exploration and patient investigation. Giannouli and Thorne sound as sketching untimely haiku-like songs coming from a mysterious, uncharted territory and culture. The piano and the prepared piano find a common, resonant vocabulary within the ethereal, cosmic sounds of the ngā taonga pūoro instruments..
Often, as on the eerie, almost industrial two parts of «Dark Star – EnTrance» and «Dark Star – Fading Light», Giannouli and Thorne mode of investigation asks more answers than providing any answers, forcing both musicians to rethink again about their musical vocabularies and syntax and their improvising strategies. Other pieces like the minimalist «Yfasma» have a surprising meditative power, bringing to mind compositions for the Japanese shakuhachi flute, associated with Zen Buddhism. The epic, 15-minutes «Te Tangi A Mutu» distills both approaches in the most arresting and beautiful manner possible and realizes best «Rewa» timeless, essential wisdom: «leaving the old Self behind. Seeing the world through a different prism. A new life, fueled by yesterday’s pain and tangles. Acceptance and release. Setting off».
Tania Giannouli (p, prep. piano), Rob Thorne (ngā taonga pūoro); Steve Garden (treatments)