Milas Music Esthema : Apart from the rest (US,2007)****'
The most amazing thing about Esthema is that all members, despite having mastered whole different styles…(-Turkish born Onur Dilisen on violin is busy finishing his masters degree on violin at Boston Conservatory ; Tery Lemanis on oud/bouzouki graduated for guitar at Berklee College of Music while also having included a study on Bouzouki, Oud, and Byzantine music in Greece as part of the university’s exchange program ; Brazil born Bruno Esrubilsky on drums/percussion experienced a period of touring, teaching and studying throughout Europe, now joined in through Berkeley ; Argentine born Ignacio Long on bass has studied in Brazil, New York, and Boston for Composition and Film Score at Berkeley College of Music ; Andy Milas on guitar has been performing traditional and contemporary Greek music for over a decade throughout New England, but also arranged for Progressive Rock, Greek, New Age, and Jazz musical projects), together they manage to fuse and transform a resume of their skills into one fruitful unity with a more global style, and with each previous style completely adapted into one another. They perform with a sort of jazz-fusion improvised strength, which directs the music with some melodic flows, combined with the skilful rhythmical structures which have always micro rhythms available and subtle separate cooperative layers in them -which sound logical and easy, but which aren’t-, played by mostly cooperative-dialoguing paired or sometimes single instruments.
The acoustic guitar on its own could easily range from Spanish, Western and Greek flavours reaching out hands to the bouzouki/oud player while adding elements to the other members. The oud/bouzouki takes its own freedom, just a little bit more of a jazz nature in doing so, but with ideas coming forth from Greek and Middle Eastern music. The drums make many micro-rhythms possible, are skilful like jazz, but can handle art-rock, and adds moments of surprises and change with Latin/Cuban rhythms, without ever letting those new moments take over the flow of the melody drives, or the previous basic scale (especially great on “finding my way”). Also the bass player manages to add such Latin swing surprises amongst a more usual jazz-rock drive. The violin player has improvisations on top (comparable in nature to what happened in Curved Air or Mahavishnu Orchestra, but with a different flavour), in some way mixes a jazz-fusion freedom with an mid-eastern touch. Some of the used rhythmic scales are incredibly interesting like the 4+5/8 rhythm (-if I count right-), on “Distance”, and the brilliant, very unusual parts of even more combined rhythms on the closing track “apart from the rest”, which are (Ii think) adapted from Arab scales.
On the website they give a bit more detail into how they play Western Jazz improvisation and Eastern Taxims, Latin Samba and Eastern Kasilama, Western modes like Aeolian and Phrygian and Eastern Scales/Maqams like Hijaz, Sabah, and Niavent, for those who know what this all means in detail.
Recommended and very enjoyable listen !
Esthema Music Esthema : The hereness and nowness of things (US,2009)****
Esthema’s approach is like a great example of how a world fusion band should be able to sound. Nothing here of the recognisable themes to be improvised upon, but contemporary music based upon a wide range of skills and ideas, forming a new form of chamber folk(rock) music with a total world music fundament. The violin plays with jazz-fusion abilities but also switches easily to a few folkdance melodies with the same sort of strength ; the percussion plays with accurate precision, including microrhythms (learned from his Brazil days), while broadening the scopes and pushing the boundaries towards a folk-rock and jazzrock, something which even improved the band’s original sound with a subtle touch of power. There are recognisable Greek or occasional Turkish music themes here and there, immediately adapted into bigger compositions and orientations. Surprising was also the use of some electric guitar, which widens the emotionality within the music even more, in an equally subtle balance (adding a "progressive" orientation to it). There were some guest appearances on dumbek and cello. Highly recommended !
Esthema MusicEsthema : Long Goobye (digpack) (US,2014)****
Esthema's members (Mac Ritchey) play instruments like bouzouki, acoustic and electric oud, and that patterns of Middle Eastern music can be found in their general approach, of new fusion has become much more that of an all-world fusion, with a symphonic suite-like concept of improvisation, with some keyboard textures in the beginning to fill up space, and with a drum/bass/cello power that makes their music more like modern chamber-(music) rock. In several parts the band almost waltzes it’s power up, with pickings, more pickings being added, then with chamber string arrangements in combination with oud (and drum of course). Other calmed down passages are led by violin with acoustic pickings, and still a fusion-based, warm podium chamber-feel, followed by more full chamber ensemble arrangements. The themes are well worked out in circular variations. “Fire and Shadow” has a nice emotionality shown in the violin lead, while the rest of the band accompanies and gives it a warm full chamber fusion band bed of arrangement, at the end of the first track evolving to have more power too. In the second part there’s an electric bass lead with Persian percussion, then a rather Turkish theme has been repeated with drum/chamber music/bouzouki lead. “Without A Moment's Notice” is a lament led by acoustic pickings, string arrangements/improvisations and bouzouki, bass and drums, with an up tempo groovier cello-led and then violin-led part with chamber music work-out before concluding again with the picking theme. “Reminiscence” sounds like a medieval Turkish-based theme, somewhat improvised upon. “Long Goodbye” is a romantic closer led by a violin/cello duet, accompanied by pickings, bass and Persian percussion.