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Petros Sakelliou's 'Visual Music Circus' review

Composer and pianist Petros Sakelliou’s latest album, Visual Music Circus, includes a bevy of incredible musicians playing their instruments with overwhelming skill and accuracy.

Released on March 20 and recorded at PBS Pete’s Basement Studio in Westwood, Massachusetts, the Athens-born Sakelliou composed all of the tracks on the album. In 2009, he started working with Cirque du Soleil, taking part in three productions as a bandleader, keyboard and bass player over the course of five years.

On Visual Music Circus, Sakelliou tickles the ivories alongside Magda Giannikou on the accordion, alto & soprano saxophonist Ryoichi Yamaki, Mika Mimura on the vibraphone, clarinetist Linus Wyrsch, Susanna Quilter on the flute and piccolo, baritone and alto saxophonist Anna Hoffman, violinists Ben Powel fand Tomoko Omura, upright bassist Yuki Ito, percussionist Keita Ogawa and drummer Ryo Noritake. Sakelliou is currently finishing a three-year world tour with Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion.

The opening track of the album is titled “My Choro.” Choro in American terms is the “New Orleans jazz of Brazil.” The track’s intro has intuitively adept accordion play from Giannikou as well as Mimura’s vibraphone. Both have a mysterious musical quality that could make listeners envisioning themselves in the South American country dancing and swaying to its extraordinary rhythm.

“Ironic Dance Suite 1” features Sakelliou’s deft piano work, jazzy alto sax play, combined with Quilter’s light-hearted fluting. That equals an unusual tango melody that is both oddly erotic and lively at the same time. There are frequent pauses throughout, which add to the stimulating effect of the song. It’s definitely a song listeners could hear on this season’s Dancing with the Stars.

The album’s third track, “Stucks,” begins with Mimura on the vibraphone then violinists Powel and Omura arrive with bold instrument play that complements the soft vibraphone now more in the background. Then, Quilter’s velvety flute play makes its presence known, lightening the track a bit. Later on, Wyrsch’s clarinet and Hoffman’s baritone sax enter bringing in even more exceptional instrumentation into a single track. Yet, the many instruments vying for the listeners attention does not detract from the striking rhythm of the track.

“Is it coincidence?,” the album’s sixth track, has a breezy vibraphone intro by Mimura, sprightly alto sax play, light percussion from Ogawa, faint drumming from Noritake and slight upright bass from Ito in the background. That enhances this fun, danceable track. Sakelliou’s piano work along with Quilter’s smooth flute play then intone a classical vibe.

“Swingalong,” the eighth and final track, won Sakelliou the 2007 Thelonious Monk Prize for composition. It has a seamless piano intro from Sakelliou. Then, jaunty alto sax work, Wyrsch’s resounding clarinet notes, Mimura’s vibraphone and gentle drumming from Noritake and Ogawa’s percussion in the background. All together, they create a playful happy tune that’s the perfect track to complete the album with.

Visual Music Circus from Petros Sakelliou unites unbelievably gifted musicians playing their distinctive instruments to form unforgettable compositions that are both danceable and sexy.