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Tassos Spiliotopoulos

Tassos Spiliotopoulos Swedish Band, The Queens Head, Monmouth, 28/09/2016.


by Ian Mann

September 29, 2016


Quite simply this was one of the best gigs that I've ever seen at the Queens. Drawing on jazz, rock and folk influences the thing that united this music was the unfailing sense of melody.

Tassos Spiliotopoulos Swedish Band, The Queens Head, Monmouth, 28/09/2016.

For several years I’ve been a regular attendee of jazz events at the Queens Head pub in Monmouth.
I’ve witnessed the venue host a remarkable array of UK and international jazz talent but very few of these gigs, enjoyable as they have been, have actually been reviewed on the Jazzmann web pages.

The reason for this is that the gigs are free of charge, it’s a pub so it’s completely open house, but with donations invited from members of the audience. It’s always been my custom to put a fiver in the pot when it comes around, as I did last night, and in any case it’s nice to relax at a gig now and again and not have to take notes. 

However in the case of last night’s performance by the guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos and his stellar international quartet I’m prepared to make an exception. Quite simply this was one of the best gigs that I’ve ever seen at the Queens and when you consider that the likes of Partisans, Andy Sheppard, Nat Birchall, Maciek Pysz, Alan Wilkinson, Paul Hession and others have played here this is praise indeed.

The Greek born Spiliotopoulos lived in London for over a decade and is probably best known to British audiences through his work in bands led by the Israeli born drummer, percussionist and composer Asaf Sirkis. However the guitarist has pursued a parallel solo career and released his leadership début “Wait For Dusk” in 2006, followed by “Archipelagos” in 2011.

In 2013 Spiliotopoulos moved to Stockholm and wasted no time in immersing himself in the Swedish jazz scene. Earlier in 2016 he released “In The North”, a quartet album featuring his ‘Swedish Band’, a recording that represented his best album to date with the leader’s increasingly mature, descriptive and melodic writing style complemented by some superb playing by a quartet featuring the experienced tenor/soprano saxophonist Orjan Hulten, a bandleader in his own right. “In The North”, plus both of Siliotopoulos’ previous releases are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

Earlier in the year Tassos emailed me to say that he would be bringing his ‘Swedish Band’ to the UK for a series of dates in September and October 2016. The Monmouth show has been in my diary for months and was the third gig of the tour following dates at The Vortex in London and Dempsey’s in Cardiff, two more of my favourite venues. The line up was a truly international one with Spiliotopoulos and Hulten joined by bassist Robert Erlandsson and with none other than Asaf Sirkis behind the drum kit.

The material was largely sourced from the “In The North” album and included “Emerald Blues”, “By Way Of Fire”, “Shepherd’s Minor”, “Friday Frolics”  and others.

The band also dipped into Spiliotopoulos’ back catalogue with the “Archipelagos” selections including the infectious “Stepping Stones” and “Cosmic Motion”, the recorded version of which included a memorable guest appearance by the late, great Kenny Wheeler.

From “Wait For Dusk” came the episodic and evocative “Lights In The East” and the lively “Ask Harry”, still a favourite piece for Spiliotopoulos and his musicians to improvise around.

The deserved encore was a brief but exquisite solo guitar piece. Just for once in the Queens you could hear the proverbial pin drop.

Drawing on jazz, rock and folk influences the thing that united this music was the unfailing sense of melody which consistently shone through no matter how deeply Spiliotopoulos and Hulten probed on their unfailingly fluent solos. Meanwhile Erlandsson proved to be an impeccable and subtly propulsive time keeper and also shone on his occasional solos, particularly on the gentler ballad material. And it’s always a joy to see and hear the brilliant Sirkis behind the kit.

Spiliotopoulos had visited the Queens before as part of Sirkis’ group and word had clearly got around that this performance was likely to deliver something special. Such was the case with a large, and in the main highly attentive audience, giving the band a great reception for two sets of fluent, highly skilled and ultimately hugely exciting music making. It was the largest gathering that I’ve seen at the Queens for quite some time and the reaction of the audience was one of the loudest and most enthusiastic that I’ve experienced at this venue. All feedback was overwhelmingly positive and CD sales correspondingly brisk. 

The move to Sweden seems to have worked out perfectly for Spiliotopoulos but it was still great to see him back in the UK leading such a terrific band and getting such a great reception. This really is a superb band and one that I’d recommend you all to go and see if you get the chance. The group’s remaining tour dates are listed below;   

September 29th -Soundcellar, Poole, UK

September 30th -Birmingham Jazz, Birmingham, UK

October 25th - St. Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall, UK

October 26th -Speakeasy, Torquay, UK

October 27th - tbc

October 28th - Fleece Jazz, Suffolk, UK

September 29,30
(Tassos Spiliotopoulos-Guitar, Örjan Hultén - Sax, Robert Erlandsson - Bass, Eric Ford - Drums)

October 25,26,28
(Tassos Spiliotopoulos-Guitar, Örjan Hultén - Sax, Kevin Glasgow - Bass, Asaf Sirkis - Drums)


From David Battisby via Facebook;

They were great in Birmingham too tonight at the Red Lion.

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