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14 Apr

Lefteris Kordis Interview

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"Pianist Kordis is a masterful musician whose nimble mind can perform the most amazing spontaneous improvisations on any given theme, lightning fast in his fingering and always in precise coordination with the singer and others. He is quite a phenomenon!" Hardwick Gazette

Lefteris Kordis interview at Jazz Online  

You have different kinds of musical experiences including stints with Steve Lacy, Sheila Jordan, Joe Lovano, Greg Osby, Robin Eubanks, as well as Greek composers Mikis Theodorakis and Dionysis Savvopoulos, Greek pop singers Fivos Delivorias, Aggelos Dionysiou, and Lefteris Pantazis, Greek folk clarinet players Vasilis Saleas and Panayotis Haliyannis and others. How do you deal with so different projects and performances? Some are quite far from what you do?
LK - Your last question raises another question: How far is Steve Lacy from Haliyannis? Lovano from Saleas? Sheila from Fivos?  Are they really quite far away from each other?  I treat all music as folk music. Some of it I learn exclusively by ear, some by transcribing in music paper and when I am on stage, I am there to communicate with my band-mates, the audience, the god, and myself. Sometimes it feels like a ceremony, sometimes a game, a fairy tale, a conversation about politics, or just teasing each other and having fun. It is always a truly powerful thing to play for people to dance, for dating couples to chat in a romantic evening at a restaurant, or play in order to trigger the audience’s senses at a gallery performance, and to touch peoples’ hearts.

You have released so far four CD’s and you got amazing reviews. You are about to release a new one: The New Lefteris Kordis Jazz Piano Trio. Could you tell us a few words about it?
LK -
This project isn’t something entirely new. My previous project “Songs for Aesop’s Fables” opened new musical pathways for me as I started finding ways to merge improvised music, chamber, and east Mediterranean folk in the most instinctive manner. I don’t really believe in the notion: “My music, my thing.” We grow up being exposed to our local and neighboring traditions, we travel abroad or search online to learn music from other traditions, we study history, and learn about new tools to analyze, transcribe, and practice music, and we are searching for new avenues. Nobody’s music emerged out of the blue.
I have a deep love and interest for Greek folk (especially Smyrneika and Politika) and Byzantine music and these elements come up in my improvisations and compositions through the lens of my classical and jazz/experimental musical experience. Continuing on this path, I keep writing music that takes me deeper into a world where musical styles are gradually dissolving giving way to various experiences that I cannot put into words partly because they are not static. It constantly changes.  What is new in this trio, is that I write new music having in mind Petros on bass and Ziv on drums, and they both add their own wonderful ideas, playfulness, and energy. They are humble passionate and very sensitive musicians. I feel extremely fortunate to be playing with them.

How was this trio born? Where did you meet and how did you get together?
LK -
I met Petros in the summer 2005. We spent more than a month in Crete playing rock, pop, and jazz on a tour with singers Manos Lidakis and Panayota Haloulakou, and drummer Alexandros Ktistakis. I met Ziv in Boston in around 2004-5 and played a few local gigs with him. Years later, Petros was invited to play at the Inner Circle Music Festival (both Petros and I have released cd’s through ICM) at the Cornelia in New York. He decided to form a trio with Ziv and I. There was a wonderful chemistry among us and after the gig we decided to continue playing. We recorded my originals last November and now we are trying to find ways to take this project on the road.

You have been living in the US for some time now but you do keep in touch with your country.  Do you plan to visit us soon and may be present this CD in Greece
LK -Since I departed from Greece in 2002, I have been feeling more and more connected to the past and the present of my home country. By keeping a distance and by looking at it in a global context, I have started to discover the wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and traditions this region has produced for thousands of years. I would love to present my work in Greece in Festivals or clubs that are open during the summertime. One of my dreams is to present the Aesop project in an ancient theater. 

As an educator what do you think about the Greek jazz scene as it is today with all those young promising jazz musicians? What is next?
LK -
Internet, travelling, and skype lessons have contributed tremendously in the dissemination of information, knowledge, and ideas all over the world. If something happens in Malaisia, Syria or Ukraine, everyone knows about it and gets affected by it in minutes. We are more connected than ever. So do the young Greek jazz musicians who are closer connected to those who live in Europe, USA or other parts of the globe. In musical terms it means that we can learn from a wide range of musical traditions and interact with musicians from every part of the globe even in real-time. We have many and talented young jazz musicians in Greece. This is not a surprise and certainly didn’t happen overnight. There are great jazz musicians and teachers who paved the way teaching both in schools and on stage: Dimitriadis, Kontrafouris, Paterelis, Papatriantafylou, Kiourtzoglou, and dozens of others. I learnt from them and from my band-mates at the time (Koulouras, Thermos, Ktistakis, Tsakas, and many others). I emphasize on that because today I see a dangerous trend, at least in the US. There are many talented young artists who enroll to jazz schools only for the purpose of making connections, obtaining a degree and going to New York to ‘make it’ in various ways (have their face on the cover of Downbeat, win a grammy, win competitions, etc). And I see that this is not working anymore. There are so many talented artists ‘packed like sardines’ in one place. How about if we reconsider and even question this model because it creates separation, egomania, depression, and the end result is obnoxious music making. Of course the New York experience is something that every jazz musician should have at least once in their lifetime. But I am talking about self-y and career-ist attitudes that you see in other non-artist disciplines such as CEO’s, politicians, golden boys, etc. We need to value our music partners (whether these are teachers or band-mates) as if they were the stars we dream of playing with one day. We need to build jazz scenes and audiences in places other than NYC. Let’s go back to the history of jazz and observe the way jazz musicians made wonderful music. How did the bebop idiom emerge? How did Louis Armstrong create the Hot fives and the Hot sevens? How did Coltrane and Miles make music? Why does the Jarrett trio play at that sensitivity level ? 
There are many answers to these questions, but one answer could be that these groups of musicians travelled, ate, rehearsed, performed, talked politics, philosophy, faith, they argued, sometimes fought for an idea or fought with each other, but generally they spent quality time together. They built communities. They had groups that lasted for a long time. They developed friendships, which brought about trust and confidence, which are very important to make them feel comfortable to experiment, therefore paving new ways of musical expression and reach freedom. Today, besides the Jarrett trio and the Wayne Shorter quartet, there are very few groups that have lasted for a long time. There is nothing wrong to be changing the personnel of one’s band. I just believe that building long-term relationships takes you deeper and farther both as a musician and a human being.
What I see as coming next: Jazz musicians who will be eager to learn, study the history, sharpen their ears, develop their personal unique musical voice, built communities and develop music scenes and audiences wherever they happen to live. Regarding style my advice is this: Learn from the past and dive to the unknown in your music, in your life, always and all ways.

What are you working on these days?
LK -
I am currently working for the Berklee Global Jazz Institute under the direction of Danilo Perez, whose philosophy and pedagogy of jazz improvisation has influenced me tremendously. His philosophy is based on the notion of connecting music with life experiences; the notion that musicians can turn poison into medicine and bring about personal and social change. The institute maintains a small number of fifteen full-time students, who have a very high musical level but also are willing to create an impact in society through music. They have the opportunity to study with such jazz greats as John Pattituci, Joe Lovano, George Garzone, Dave Liebman, Brian Blade, Adam Cruz, Allan Chase, Marco Pignataro and others, but at the same time they serve their community by playing performances for people who cannot have access to live music. For example, they go to retirement homes, correctional facilities, prisons, and hospitals. Saxophonist Patricia Zarate, who is also Danilo’s wife, organizes these concerts. Students travel throughout the world to play in famous festivals (Newport), to initiate impoverished kids into music by giving free concerts and workshops (Panama, Chile, Benin), to interact with and learn from traditional folk musicians. Working for Danilo has added a new dimension to my life, music and teaching. It’s about a mission that goes way beyond myself and my ambitions. It rather connects the personal with the collective and ultimately the universal (micro to macro and vice versa). On a more personal musical search, I am currently playing with wonderful musicians of the Boston and New York scene: three different jazz trios, one collective quartet, one jazz orchestra, two Greek dance music groups, and a new smyrneiko group where I am playing the oud and the laouto. At the same time, I am composing music for the second Aesop project, which (compared to the first project) will involve more eastern Mediterranean traditional musicians and instruments.

If there is anything else you would like to say, please feel free to do it.
Thank you for creating and maintaining the jazzonline magazine. This is a wonderful resource and it documents the wealth of the Greek Jazz community of the past and the present.

Boston, April 14, 2014 -  Interview Patricia Graire -

More about Lefteris Kordis  http://www.jazzonline.gr/en/musicians/item/105-kordis-lefteris.html  & http://www.jazzonline.gr/en/cd-releases/itemlist/tag/Lefteris%20Kordis.html
More about Jazz Piano Trio EPK http://www.jazzonline.gr/en/cd-releases/item/2361-jazz-piano-trio-2014.html 

Last modified on Friday, 06 June 2014 12:27

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