Petros KLAMPANIS – Chroma – Motema 219, 44: 34 (3/10/17) ***:

(Petros Klampanis; bass/ Gilad Hekselman; guitar/ Shai Maestro; piano/ John Hadfield; drums/ Keita Ogawa; percussion/ Gokce Erem, Megan Gould, Eylem Basaldi, Migen Selman; violins/ Carrie Frey, Peter Kiral; violas/ Colin Stokes, Sam Quiggins; cello)

Gilad Hekselman shines on original arrangements which involve heavy use of a string octet. 

I first encountered bassist Petros Klampanis on an excellent release by Israeli saxophonist, Oded Tzur, reviewed in Audiophile Audition. The pianist on that recording, the versatile Shai Maestro, appears once again on this recording by Klampanis. The key figure here, though, is Gilad Hekselman, the most persuasive Pat Metheny acolyte of his generation and a incomparable soloist in any context. The Israeli-born guitarist has the same combination of velocity and sweetness as Pat, but is perfectly capable of hitting a switch on his box and shredding with vehemence over thick textures as he does on Little Blue Sun.

The material of Chroma is mostly composed and arranged by the bassist. The exceptions are a light and funky tune, “Shadows,” and a much extended version of Hekselman’s “Cosmic Patience” from his remarkable record, Homes. The expansiveness of this chart seems to have been an invitation to Klampanis to try his hand at a reorchestration of sorts.

The main ingredient in the texture of the music is the extensive use of a small string ensemble. On the opening track, they contribute a feeling akin to the Lyle Mays’ syrupy use of the synthesizer on the many 90s recordings of the Pat Metheny Group. However, on “Tough Decisions,” the strings are integrated more thoroughly into the ensemble, making for compositional polyphony. It is all the more remarkable that the CD was recorded live. One would suppose that the ambitious scope of the arrangements would have required much rehearsal time.

However, some fans of Gilad Hekselman and Shai Maestro will not be thrilled with the strings, as well-played as they are. The deeply lyrical style of these players and the extroverted nature tunes are certainly not in need of any sweeteners. Others might welcome this as a kind of compounded pleasure, like baklava on an island beach under Mediterranean blue skies.

The bassist solos handsomely on “Tough Choices” and elsewhere, with a warm natural-wood sound.  He vocalizes plaintively on “Shadows,” summoning a chorus of strings to assist in unabashedly romantic declarations. Percussion and drums are lively on the last track and throughout in a mostly decorative capacity.

Petros Klampanis has certainly made a confident advance in an already promising career with an ambitious recording putting his diverse musical prowess to the test. Nevertheless, the final impression is that the recording gained little by the swollen string ensemble. I might advise a bit of rethinking and another run with the incandescent Israelis Gilad, Shai, Oded Tzur and Zvi Ravitz.

TrackList: Chroma; Tough Decisions; Little Blue Sun; Cosmic Patience; Shadows; Shades of Magenta

—Fritz Balwit