Forest Stories

Forest Stories

Tania Giannouli | Paulo Chagas

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View/download album booklet


View Guillame Baychelier's video of In the Deepest Night
Read Graham Reid's Elsewhere review
Read the Bird Is The Worm review
Read the Free Jazz Collective review


Tania Giannouli (piano)
Tania Giannouli studied piano and advanced theory and composition at Athenaeum Conservatory. She is a founding member of “4+1” and “Schema Ensemble”, and co-founded “Emotone” with Tomas Weiss. She is highly regarded for her many compositions for theatre and film, which have been performed at many festivals throughout the world.

Paulo Chagas (alto and soprano saxophones, bass and sopranino clarinets, flute, bamboo flute)
Portuguese-born Paulo Chagas describes himself as a wilfully eclectic musician, having focused much of his career on experimentalism. Being by nature a maverick, he has dedicated his life to seeking new (or renewed) solutions and links between the sounds and textures he explores.

Forest Stories
Improvisations, silences, avant-garde, modern 20th century music, jazz, classical, world, a dialogue between cultures, conflicting emotions, introspection and anguish, the penumbra of the forest, mystery and magic, Forest Stories is a touchstone for music that aspires to move beyond genre.

Tania Giannouli and Paulo Chagas not only have the musical and technical facility for the implicit challenges of this kind of exploratory music, but more importantly they have the necessary emotional and spiritual strength. Forest Stories gives the listener ample room to draw their own parallels and make their own associations. It is an album to listen to. This is music with which to calm down, rest, listen, and dream.

As Giannouli says in the accompanying booklet, much of the music was inspired by the sounds and sensations of the forest, invoking a journey through unfamiliar and sometimes mysterious terrains. This is music that speaks of a yearning for intimacy, for spiritual and physical nearness, harmony and understanding.

A suite of improvised music for piano and wind instruments, Forest Stories is richly atmospheric, reminiscent of the ECM style in its melodic and spatial clarity, measured tempi, and narrative precision. While the music is improvised, the implicit language is universal, with both musicians striving for unity of expression and the clearest articulation of their commonality of purpose.

Giannouli and Chagas essentially coexist in a forest of their own making, in which each piece on this wonderful album offers them as musicians, and we as listeners, the chance to explore evocative environments, places for new encounters and for the telling of stories.


"There is no need to play a lot of notes in order to make exciting music – the secret is to choose the right ones. That is what Giannouli and Chagas achieve with Forest Stories, an album of beautiful, impressionistic pieces that allow us to see that musical construction should be made in harmony with silence. The music on this album has great simplicity and clarity, sometimes pastoral, other times energetic, but always harmonious to the ear. I predict that Forest Stories will become a "must have" for fans of contemplative avant-garde."
João Pedro Viegas, Musician, Musical Programmer and reviewer at All Jazz,, TomaJazz, and Oro Molido


RAT-D042 (December, 2012)

Produced by Tania Giannouli & Paulo Chagas 
Recorded by Casimiro Loupa, Tania Giannouli
Edited and mixed by Themistoklis Pantelopoulos, Tania Giannouli
Mastered by Steve Garden
Photography by Andreas
Design by UnkleFranc

  Forest Stories
  Tania Giannouli & Paulo Chagas  

    Step by step  (5:45)
    Afternoon forest valse  (5:32)
    This beautiful hard way  (5:16)
    Is this forever?  (6:11)
    Instead of clouds  (5:46)
    Spring's chronic  (12:02)
    In the deepest night  (5:04)
    The way back home  (5:06)


All works © Tania Giannouli & Paulo Chagas (2012)

Tania Giannouli:
Paulo Chagas:


I was lucky enough to live near a forest for a few short periods in my life. Some of the music on this album was inspired by those times: the light, the reflections, the colors, the scents, the moods, the skies - moments that were absorbed then, but that continue to exist even though I am not in that place and time anymore. But what do we really know about Time? I often have the feeling that Time isn't expanding in a linear manner, but that its following its own journey in different directions and dimensions. I believe that trees have a better understanding of Time, and indeed of life itself, than we humans do. They are old, wise and strong, and they know so much about the seasons, about changing yet being the same, about the sun always coming out and shining after a terrible storm, about spring always following winter, about the cycles of birth and death, and that every step is a beginning and an end… and then a new beginning. If we listen to the forest, we may realize that our own microcosmos - our troubles, fears and pain - is but a small part of a far greater Reality… and it is not forever. In the forest, we sense what it means to find our way "home", to trust the life within, and to be nothing more or less than ourselves.
Tania Giannouli, 2012


music is a place for encounters
a special and unique place
where ideas and feelings come together
by unfathomable means

a conjugation of sounds
an abstract and absolute
that makes it magic

the power of music resides above all in its
aggregating capability

the canopy of music brings together people from the most distant places

as if they had gathered in a forest for the telling of stories
Paulo Chagas, 2012



REVIEW by José Pessoa

Tania Giannouli is a Greek piano soloist from the Athenaeum Conservatory where she studied the piano and composition. Her current experience includes highly regarded compositions for theatre and film and improvisation. She is a member of “4+1”, “Schema Ensemble” and “Emotone”. Paulo Chagas is a Portuguese multi-instrumentalist (reeds instruments and flutes), teacher and music theorist, that leads and participates in many projects. Chagas has an extensive body of work, with compositions for ballet, opera, theatre, multimedia, orchestra, instrumental and vocal ensembles, electronic and computer music. His most significant work as a theorist spreads light into musical semiotics, music and media philosophy (Wittgenstein) or new media and music technology. Both of them have already performed throughout the world with great success.

In Forest Stories they join forces with great success to create evocative tunes that appeal to our inner senses and aural memories of the forest. Experts in their craft, the duo build and interweave their improvisational utterances with seeming effortless creativity and virtuosity. Each of the eight atmospheric compositions convey a rich sense of harmony, and are usually built around measured tempos and well contained dynamics. The rhythmic patterns are diverse and interesting, and the musicians modulate between modal approaches and free improvisation. This fine recording is highly recommended.
José Pessoa - Stockholm, September 2012,



REVIEW by Kornilios Diamantopoulos

Contemplative, esoteric, atmospheric music with elements of 20th century Avant-garde and free-improvisation, Forest Stories conjures magical, sensual images through sounds that cannot be categorized but that have a special, sometimes strange (bizarre) charm. This music has a very individual and personal character, vivid and painterly.
Kornilios Diamantopoulos, Jazz & Tzaz magazine, Greece



REVIEW by Nuno Lourenço

Listening to this album is like seeing music embodied: some emotions are shown, others hidden; complex thoughts and primal (minimal) instincts are revealed; and as the music morphs into an organic entity, one can perceive its distinct blueprint. Like someone you know, you can like this music or not, but you cannot deny its soul. The haunting piano sets the canvas on which the wind instruments add colors, sometimes bright and vivid, other times saturnine and morose. This music is very visual, like a series of paintings, and the overall impression is that of an artistic, maybe surrealistic, self-portrait.


I wrote the paragraph above at the request of Rattle, initially for promotional purposes. I was surprised and very proud to later find the quote included within the CD booklet. Now, some months later, and with a copy of the album in my hands, I can only reaffirm my earlier comments – and then some.

Atmospheric and/or improvisational albums such Forest Stories don't usually find their way on to the Proggnosis site, mostly because they tend towards the experimental and the avant-garde. But music as rich, textured and artistic as this deserves to be featured here, particularly as I have had a long and fruitful association with the music of Paulo Chagas (see my reviews on the many other projects by this exquisite player, such as Miosotis, Mispel Bellyful and Zpoluras).

Forest Stories is a musical journey through introspective and atmospheric pastures. The interplay between the two musicians is, in many way, as unexpected as it is unwaveringly empathetic. This alone gives the album a strong personality and quality, but the music is so emotionally and visually evocative that Forest Stories can only be described as a unique and wholly original work.

There are many contemplative passages on Forest Stories, juxtaposed by moments of tension and release that convey a diverse array of feelings and images. It's like wandering through a beautiful forest, aware of its quietness and mysterious aura, at once peaceful and joyful, but also unsettling and subtly threatening. In terms of their musicianship, Tania Giannouli and Pauol Chagas are second to none. Tania's piano provides a strong but delicate emotional platform that gives Paulo full reign to explore a gamut of vibes, moods and feelings with his tremendously avant-garde approach.

Forest Stories is not meant for casual listening. With its emphasis on improvisation and openness, it will most likely be appreciated by those familiar with free-form jazz and contemporary new music. And yet, this music is by no means dry or formal. If you appreciate music as art, and enjoy listening to musicians who are bold enough to express their innermost thoughts and feelings (magical dreams, frightening nightmares), then you should really give this excellent album a chance. 

Nuno Lourenço, Proggnosis<



REVIEW by Sergio Piccirilli

Some cross the forest and see only firewood (Leo Tolstoy)

Dictionaries define the forest as a "wooded site and bushes." For naturalists it is much more complex, an ecosystem where communities of living beings (both animal and plant-life) cohabit and develop together. All members of the forest community, from microorganisms to large oaks and redwoods, contribute to the perpetual cycle of life, death and renewal. In the popular imagination, the forest is imbued with an aura of mystery and fantasy, of hidden secrets and fascinating tales, inspiring artists of all disciplines to evoke the myths, legends, mysteries and memories that are lodged deep within what Carl Jung referred to as the “collective unconscious”.

Portuguese multi-instrumentalist Paulo Chagas and Greek pianist Tania Giannouli drew on these evocative notions to create their remarkable album, Forest Stories (Tales of the forest), an imaginary journey through a dense and magical forest landscape. This is music of the new millennium, a fascinating amalgam of contemporary classical, jazz and free improvisation that combines formal and aesthetic rigour with timeless beauty to produce a work of compelling contrasts: abstraction and reality; sound and silence; the spiritual and the corporeal.

The opening track, Step by Step, progresses through a gradual series of changes towards its deliberately understated climax, achieving the near-classical ideal of simplicity by resisting the temptation for bombastic emotion in favour of subtle and evanescent gestures.

Afternoon Forest Valse has an even, intimate character that defines Chagas and Gionnouli’s aesthetic philosophy (with its links to Abstract Expressionism). The piece evolves through a foggy territory in which strategic silences and short solo passages are alternated with commendable taste and spatial sophistication.

This Beautiful Hard Way conveys an elusive, introspective beauty. The piece juxtaposes restraint and musical ornamentation with the elegant phrasing of Giannouli's piano and the sweet, slightly dissonant quality of Chagas’s flute.

The languid tone ensues with more emphasis on chromaticism in the structurally complex and abstract profiles of Is This Forever, the incorporeal, contemplative landscape of Instead of Clouds, the sustained climax that emerges from the epicentre of the mysterious Spring's Chronic, the fluid transparency of In the Deepest Night, and the elegiac finale of The Way Back Home.

Forest Stories is an exquisite album, on which Tania Giannouli and Paulo Chagas have shown that “stories of the forest” will continue to fascinate when in the hands of artists of talent and vision.

Occasionally it is worth going off the road to enter the forest, where you will find things you have never seen. (Alexander Graham Bell)

Sergio Piccirilli, el intruso, Buenos Aires, Argentina (November 2013)



REVIEW by Simon Sweetman Off the Tracks

Don’t be scared off by the announcement that this is a collection of pieces brought about by improvisation & spontaneous composition. Sure, that can reek of pretentious, music-school waffle, but in the right hands, to the right ears, music happened upon by chance offers up a new world of possibilities with every listen.

Tania Giannouli (piano) and Paulo Chagas (flutes/saxophones/clarinets) offer thoughtful dialogues that are fidgety and assured, bold and delicate, confidant and coy – and there is a nocturnal feel of so many wide-eyed surprises.

There is also a cultural exchange at place here, as Greek (Giannouli) and Portuguese (Chagas) disciplines, values and teachings are offered together, the result a combination of the ideas, a beautiful collision of the cultures.

Forest Stories is intriguing but accessible – check out In The Deepest Night. This is not the alienating improvisation that is written off as just noise by those with no clue; this will sit nicely alongside works by Jonathan Besser, Hirini Melbourne, and in fact many others from the Rattle stable.



From the Best of 2013 by Harris Symvoulidis,

Certainly, there are references and elective affinities across a wide range of international contemporary releases, usually from companies such as ECM and ACT, but the musical personality and temperament of the co-creators of Forest Stories is unique. The non-Euclidean geometry of this music is built upon a sparse, carefully chosen palette of notes, phrases, and textures, even in sections where Giannouli and Chagas stop playing and we are held (for some seconds) by the lingering presence of their last echo ...

Highly regarded and influential Greek critic Antonis Fragkos also rated Forest Stories as one of the best album releases of 2013.