Review by Willard Manus

Nana Simopoulos explores her wide-ranging musical interests in SKINS, her latest and seventh recording. Working with such world-music stalwarts as Ustad Sultan Khan (sarangi), Greg Beyer (percussion, berimbau), and Solis Baki (percussion), Simopoulos has converted the Sufi poetry of Rumi and the songs of the Native American shaman, Owl Woman, into tender, haunting compositions with a universal appeal.

Simopoulos, who not only sings but plays guitar and bouzouki on the CD, has also contributed a love song to the mix, “Anases.” Written in Greek for the birthday of her husband, Caryn Heilman (a background-singer on the album), it is Sappho-like in its warmth and sensuality. Simopoulos has also set to music poetry by Kojiju, a Japanese Buddhist nun from the 12th century. It goes:

“Merely to know the flawless moon
dwells pure and clear
Inside the human heart
is finding that the darkened night
will vanish
under clearing skies”

Several first-class jazz musicians, such as saxophonist Dave Liebman and drummer Royal Hartigan, are heard on SKINS. The CD’s eight compositions were recorded in various studios around the world--Athens, Brooklyn and Pennsylvania–over a 15-year period. The long wait has been worth it; SKINS is without question one of the most captivating releases of 2016.