Borders mean nothing to Greek singer Savina Yannatou. You might not be able to physically cross the frontier between Greece and Albania, but songs from both countries peacefully coexist in her repertoire; at her UCLA Live concert Sunday night, she thought nothing of following a Palestinian wedding song with an Israeli lullaby.
What holds the songs together is her resonant, emotionally supple voice. As pure and restrained as an opera singer on the opening number “Nani Nani,” she can wail like Yoko Ono and add overtones to her voice like throat singers on “Minort,” or turn ethereally mournful, her voice swooping over the delicate music of “Los Biblicos” like a restive spirit.
Primavera in Salonico, the Greek quartet of musicians who accompanied her, matched Yannatou in versatility. Kostas Theodorou’s work on the hand drums has a distinct Arabic feel, while bassist Michalis Sigandis brought a jazzy swing. Haris Lambrikis’ nay floated between them. Playing the dulcimerlike Quanun, Kostas Vomvolos added modern touches, banging on the strings or adding a creaky, moaning slide on “Ballo Sardo.”
About a third of the 90-minute show was taken from their new ECM album, “Smuiglia,” or similarities, and together they crafted a show that, for all its musical globetrotting, was remarkably consistent. You wish Yannatou were more forthcoming onstage; she only introduced the song’s titles, occasionally giving translations of the lyrics. It would have been nice to find out how she came to this mix of songs and cultures. But that did not detract from the evening’s deeply satisfying perf.