Ioannis Goudelis Trio leaves no stone unturned in ‘Blue’
John Lewis

Ioannis Goudelis’ new trio record unfolds in an elaborate dance from one original track to another. Blue features 10 instrumentals written and arranged by the Scottsdale, Ariz.-/Corfu-based, Greek pianist and composer. The instrumentals seamlessly reference the rich styles of classical music and jazz.

In the Oct. 2016 release, Goudelis (also on accordion) leads a trio with drummer John Lewis and bassist Mario Mendivil. Make no mistake, Goudelis is the star of this album, recorded live in one room at the Tempest Recording studio in Tempe, Ariz. Aug. 22, 2016.

The structure is very jazz, with layers of overlapping harmonious entrances and exits coloring a decidedly classical flourish in the melodic details enhanced liberally by Goudelis.

The title track gives plenty of love to both the classical and the jazz, as Goudelis rips into his floral notes with post-bop abandon at one point toward the finish.

Just when you start resting in the assumption that Goudelis is infatuated with the classical, he’ll throw in a few impressive jazz touches, especially in his play with hard and soft, tension and release, opening up all the senses so that the listener can almost feel the notes against the skin.

The title of the album gives a clue to the overall spirit of the music found within. In a Nov. 6, 2016 interview with Joanna Kalafatis for the Hollywood Greek Reporter, Goudelis explained the reasoning for naming his record, Blue.

“Blue is my favorite color, as are all the variations of it. I come from the island of Corfu, so I grew up by the water and the blue of the Ionian Sea. There is also a song on the album named ‘Blue,’ which I composed while living in Los Angeles and I thought that would be a nice title for this album.”

“Nocturno” opens up the palette for the other musicians to chime in. They do so with polite restraint, adding meaningful touches, always mindful who’s in charge. Here, too, Goudelis shines, pouring out his heart in both classical and jazz terms.

Another impressive tune, leaning toward the jazz left is “Let’s Have Some Fun.” Goudelis pairs up his partiality for melody with spatial manipulation, messing a little bit with time, purposely off the beat for full hip effect.

Other songs like “Shine” slow down considerably, shutting out the noise of the world, distilled down to the very delicate essence of stillness and focus. Goudelis puts a lot of feeling into the melodically dense instrumental that might also fit under a New Age light, alongside a David Lanz or Laura Sullivan masterpiece.

“Shine” is sensitively played, exhibiting a quiet romanticism in the lyrical turns held loosely on Goudelis’ piano. The melodies flow through in an almost linear fashion, similar to those instrumental hits of the late ‘70s through ‘80s. (See Frank Mills’ “Music Box Dancer.”)

Goudelis shows off his skills equally on accordion in “I’ll Be Waiting For You My Love (alt take).” The main version is done in straight acoustic piano. Both are rendered beautifully, filling every space with interest.

“Morning Love’s” technically the last song on the record, in full ballad mode. It’s melodically pleasing, yet by this time, a bit lacking in ideas and lagging.

In Arizona, Goudelis is as big a deal as you can get. He recently enjoyed an artist residency at one of the hot spots, OPA Life Greek Café.

Before that, he’s been on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and onstage for Stevie Wonder, Mike Stern, Stanley Jordan, and Ray Price. His music’s played on TV shows “NCIS” and “House.”