AMN Reviews: Julyen Hamilton & George Kokkinaris – The Road to Amarillo (2022)

The Road to Amarillo is a collaboration between Julyen Hamilton, a dancer, choreographer, poet, voice artist, and musician originally from the UK and now based in Athens, among other places in Europe, and George Kokkinaris, a double bassist dividing his time between Athens and Berlin. The pairing here seems natural; Hamilton’s long history of performing dance in duet with musicians complements Kokkinaris’ own extensive work with solo dancers. For this recording, though, Hamilton participates as poet/voice artist and pianist.

The thirteen tracks presented here are nearly evenly divided between piano-double bass duets (seven), and bass-and-spoken-word performances (six). The recording is crisp, highlighting Kokkinaris’ robust bass sounds and the intimacy of Hamilton’s voice. There’s much to like in the interplay between the two artists. Kokkinaris supports Hamilton’s spoken word performances with a sensitivity that provides just the right background presence of sound without overshadowing the voice or falling into call-and-response clichés. On the piano duets, Hamilton’s contributions range from ad hoc chord progressions to purely abstract stabs and rapid, atonal runs, but in all cases he leaves space enough for the pieces’ overall textures to breathe. The duo’s collective instrumental sound is epitomized on the free Back to Home, where Hamilton’s piano is underscored by Kokkinaris’ restless pizzicato bassline, as well as on Major Work, with its bowed and pizzicato bass weaving between piano splashes. Feathered, which features Hamilton playing directly on the strings alongside Kokkinaris’ complementary extended techniques, shows them at their most exploratory.

Daniel Barbiero