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07 Jun

George Kontrafouris Interview

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George Kontrafouris   jazz pianist & organist with an international career and probably the leading and most restless figure of his generation on the Greek jazz scene, Professor at the   jazz department of the Ionian University, and the Artistic Director of Tinos Jazz Festival presents the fifth edition of Tinos Jazz and discusses his impressions of life, music, and jazz education.
You grew up in Piraeus, the heart of rebetiko   . What were your early musical influences and what lead you to jazz ?
Îœy first influences were rock music at first and then the blues and at last the jazz. For a piano and organ player like me that was the right way to get to know jazz. Now, rebetiko has probably stay in my heart ...... I believe that every musician is creation of his generation, shaping his identity in the music of the time, and I heard a lot of rock music before turning to the blues and then to jazz.

Which jazz musicians had or have a great influence on you, and why ?
The first jazz musician I heard was   Bud Powell;   I had never heard anybody play the piano that way before. I would mentionned   McCoy Tyner as well   because I really like his dynamism and honesty , but   also many others such as Wynton Kelly, Kenny Barron. And of course, my teacher Mark Alexiou had a great influence on me.

When did you first understand you wanted to pursue a career in music and did you ever have other jobs ?
I've never had another job. This is what I do and I will go on with it. I started   to play professionally very young, but I think   it is when I was around 26 or 27 years old that I realized I would never do anything else.

There's something else than being a jazz musician, you would like to do some day?
I don’t think so. No . it’s just fine.

Any regrets so far in your career ? something you did not do but you should have done ?
I don’t think so. Everything is as it should be. Very often everything is a matter of "timing". But the greatest concept does matter, and, as far as I am concern, the greatest concept is to do what I want exactly like what I am doing now.

You have been playing everywhere. You were actually touring in Europe and the USA last winter with Timo Lassy Band. And here in Greece we saw you playing with George Trantalidis and with your Baby trio. We also saw you next to Alkinos Ioannidis . How is it to be part of many different project ? Is that it: what every musician love to do; to get many different experiences ?
I believe there is only one music. I'm used to one style but I try to be influenced by other styles as well. Lately I play a little classical piano, but if you're focused, I think you can learn a lot of things because at the end, music of all kind merge.

We don’t see you very often with singer ? why ?
There are no reasons really. It just does not happen. Alkinoos is a singer. A few days ago, the Baby Trio played with Sugahspank, and in Finland few days ago I played with Johanna Forsti. And Dean Bowman sings on the last Baby Trio CD, Urban Jazz.

This year you have released two CD: Urban Jazz with your Baby Trio and Migration with Adam Nussbaum and Jiannis Pavlidis. Can you tell us few words about those two CD.
The Baby Trio is my main project. The Urban Jazz was a specific project with Dean Bowman; It comes out this atmosphere we wanted - the music of the city. The MIGRATION is a project started by Jiannis Pavlidis -   we were playing,   2-3 years ago with Adam and we made a recording of those pieces we were playing . For the 2 projects, I'm happy. I play hammond organ in both and I am very satisfied.

This is the fifth edition of Tinos Jazz. Could you tell us few words about it. It’s still a young festival who gets great reviews and comments highlighting always the high quality of music, the friendly and warm atmosphere. Is that difficult to succeed ?
It is easy and difficult. It is easy if you keep an identity and present new things. It is difficult when there is no understanding. I think the team we have for the organization of the Festival is good and works very well. There are too many good musicians and they cannot all play but I hope the festival will remain and everybody will get a chance to be there and play.

I would like you to give us a comment not about the greek jazz scene ( you have been asked so many time…) , but about the greek jazz audience.
I think that the Greek audience likes jazz and lately I see more and more new people coming to gigs and concerts. I think it is because the Greek jazz has become friendlier to the public.

You have been playing in many places.Where is the finest country to play your music ?   Where do you think the audience is the best and why ?  
Pretty much everywhere the public is the same. There are more familiar audiences but if you believe what you do, you transfer the energy to the audience wherever you are.

What about your work at the jazz department of the Ionian University ? We have seen many talended young jazz musician graduated from this department for the last few years.
The jazz section was created by Dimos Dimitriadis few years ago and I love what I do there. The section goes well and I hope it will continue. Every year, many young musicians graduate and are very active on the jazz scene here and abroad. I'm very happy about it.

A comment on the new generation of Greek jazz musicians ?
The new generations are very advanced and have no taboos like my generation had. I believe they will bring new days on the Greek jazz scene.

What would you like to do next ? What is your next   project ?
The next project I want to do is piano with electronics, to play a little more free but The Baby Trio remains the main project. I play also classical piano with Efi Agrafioti. and i will keep touring and playing with Timo Lassy.   But you know I always try to find something new to do.

Interview in greek: http://www.athensjazzradio.com/#!--/cxk0

More about George Kontrafouris http://jazzonline.gr/en/musicians/item/48-kontrafouris-george.html

Interview by Patricia Graire - June 2013 -

Last modified on Thursday, 31 October 2013 15:17