East and West and Yearning for Autumn

David Johnston


This past Saturday, Con Edison Composer-in-Residence Demetrius Spaneas premiered “Autumn Yearning,” at Flushing Town Hall. Demetrius, an accomplished jazz instrumentalist, is also a globe-trotting cultural ambassador, and has collaborated on sprawling pieces connecting American jazz with Eastern folk and improvisational traditions.

For the first part of the program, Demetrius gave an informal lecture on his experiences in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and time with the jazz festivals of Baku, Azerbaijan. (Jazz is big in Azerbaijan. Did you know that? I didn’t.)  There was video of previous collaborations, a jazz solo for sax, and a traditional Chinese solo for alto flute. Then, “Autumn Yearning,” a gorgeous, jazz-inflected piece performed with Wolf’s Gang (Jed Distler at piano, Alexandra Honigsberg on viola) which was neither East nor West but some lovely middle place. Then, Demetrius wrapped it up with an improv with Alexandra and Jed; jazzy sometimes, with Benny Goodman clarinet sounds, but still with the flavor or Eastern folk and klezmer.

If you want to find out more about Demetrius’ music – and seriously, why wouldn’t you – check out his website. We’ll have photos from this terrific event posted in a day or two.


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