Dimitrios Vassilakis is a tenor & soprano saxophonist/composer from Greece, though he has been known to hobnob with an American or three (his latest CD Daedalus features Dave Liebman and Ralph Peterson). But on the fine, not-exactly-over-hyped Secret Path from 1998, the band is all his homies, with Brooklynite alto sax wiz Craig Bailey guesting on two tracks. Here and there the influence of Greek folk music is heard, such as in the opener "Aenaon," parts of which sounds like a Greek wedding band playing a Steve Reich (or Phillip Glass) composition as a march (trust me) and in the entrancing, complex percussion style of Spyros Panayotopoulos. But for the most part this is first-class modal post-bop, played excellently and with imperturbable elegance ‘n’ warmth. Without coming across as a copycat/mimic, Vassilakis’ main squeezes on his horns are early 60s John Coltrane (i.e., "My Favorite Things," "Central Park West") and mid-60s Wayne Shorter (Blue Note era) - stylistically, the compositions (all originals) are in that vein as well.
What sets this set apart from the many similar albums on the market is the breezes of the Mediterranean waft through this music, as if its modality reaches further back than Coltrane and Miles and George Russell. When some sax players wail, you can hear Kansas City (Chu Berry), NYC (Charlie Parker) or Northern Europe (John Surman) - with Vassilakis, you hear Athens. That, and on a few tracks, such as the lovely jazz bossa-waltz "A Puppet’s Dream," DV provides his take on those "jazz soloist with strings" settings with some wry, piquant writing for his combo and string quartet. Nothing too mind-boggling on this Path, just some estimable, creative and engaging jazz by a player who shouldn’t be kept a Secret.