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03 Nov

Christos Rafalides Interview

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Christos Rafalides can't remember a time when he wasn't surrounded by music. He found his personal voice as a player and composer when he established 'Manhattan Vibes', a jazz group with a modern sound, which revealed his developing affinity for Latin and other world music. He was last summer at the first Kozani Jazz Festival next to Hector Martignon (2008 Grammy Nominee for Best Latin-Jazz Album of the Year ).He talked to Jazzonline for an exclusive interview.

1- I have read that you said that the first time you saw the vibraphone, it was in the main hall of the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki. You just loved it and back home you immediately tried to find recordings by top performers of this instrument. They were your greatest influence, musicians such as Milt Jackson, Gary Burton, Bobby Hutcherson, and of course your mentor Joe Locke. Could you tell us more precisely what attracted you in vibraphone ?
C R - Well, the very first thing I noticed was how gorgeous it looked standing by itself on the main stage of the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki. It was a big Century vibraphone with golden bars. I remember I went on stage, and I stood right next to it. I touched the bars. I felt a strong connection. I had just found my voice. That’s when I realized that I would do everything that I could in order to master the vibraphone. With this instrument I would be expressing myself all over the world, for the rest of my life.

2- You live in New York but you keep in touch with the Greek musical scene. We saw you last summer at the first Kozani Jazz Festival and we will have the pleasure to see you in December in Athens with your band “Manhattan Vibes”. First, could you tell us a few word about this festival ?   Secondly, where is the best place to play your music and why ?
C R - I was born and raised in Kozani, and I'm very proud of my hometown. The first international Kozani Jazz Festival took place at the beginning of September, featuring Jazz artists from New York, Los Angeles, Cuba, Colombia, Israel, Italy, and a number of other countries. It was well-attended, and also featured a variety of masterclasses. Imagine how hip it is for young music students in Northern Greece to get a chance to study, and actually play, with world-class jazz musicians. I wish I had that kind of privilege when I was a budding musician. Now, we are all looking forward for the second Kozani Jazz festival in 2014. As far as places that I would like to perform, they vary. Of course it depends on the type of music and the ensemble. For example, playing huge venues with famous pop artists is an amazing experience. But playing in a duo set up at an ancient open Greek Theater is magical as well. I would say that the places I like to play, are the places where people are listening to the music.

3- I won’t   ask you what you think about the Greek Jazz scene ( I am sure you have been asked so many times and everyone can see that there are many great Greek jazz musician ) but what about the audience ?
C R - Something the audience has to understand is the difference between entertainment and art. Every time they see live music, it doesn’t mean that it is being played for them to sing and dance. On the other hand Jazz musicians have to understand that it is not a bad thing to combine creativity and entertainment. The relationship between audience and musician needs to be one of mutual respect and open-mindedness. The audience is a crucial element of a performance. It is always a challenge to establish a connection between performer and audience. I believe that it is great when musicians talk to the audience and try to communicate, and discuss what they are about to play. Talking about where the inspiration came from to write this new composition, or maybe some historical background of the composer etc. The venues also play a big role in the behavior of the audience.

4-A comment on Greek jazz musicians you know ?
C R - I've been playing with Petros Klampanis for the last few years. He is an excellent musician and a killing bass player. A great soulful cat. We've played together in several ensembles, and we even have our own vibraphone/bass duo project recorded. We call ourselves 'Point Two', and our first CD is coming out this Christmas. Somebody else that I would like to mention is Spyros Manesis, a great pianist/composer. I have the honor of playing with both of these gentlemen in Dimitra Galani's new band- a really interesting and exciting project called 'Chronos'.

5- Could you tell us a few words about your band “Manhattan Vibes”. Your cd Blue November got very good reviews in America and Greece.
C R -Here I would like to use the quote from Village Voice: "One thing is certain:   Manhattan Vibes is a supremely cool percussion-oriented band that appears to both young and mature audiences.   They are performing a style of music that is very contemporary with international influences that blend together without ever losing the element of dance and groove." — Village Voice
'Blue November' which is the new release from Manhattan Vibes, features myself on vibraphone, Sergio Salvatore on piano, Mike Pope on bass, and Vince Cherico on drums.   Listeners will discover these New-York-based musicians combining their diverse cultural backgrounds and transcending musical boundaries, merging odd meters and contemporary American grooves with world music in a vibraphone-based band.
'Blue November' is available on iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby -       https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/blue-november/id582502901

6- Would you like to tell us what are you doing these days?
C R -I'm getting ready to go to India with Dario Boente. As soon as I get back, I will start working on the music for our concerts with Manhattan Vibes and the Athens State Orchestra (KOA), which will take place at the Athens Concert Hall on December 6th and in Piraeus on December 7th. I'm writing new music for the band, and this time along with pianist Sergio Salvatore, it will feature Petros Klampanis on bass and Ludwig Afonso on drums. On December 8th we are playing on a quartet format at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. Then we come back, and in January I will get ready to go to China. Definitely a lot of wonderful things to look forward to.

7- What would you like to do next ?   What is your next   project ?
C R -Next thing is to record the new quartet with the guys that I mentioned. It's all new original music. I'm really looking forward to this project. I'm also excited about the collaboration with Dimitra Galani. We are working very hard and it's looking really promising. We should hit the road at some point in


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Last modified on Wednesday, 20 November 2013 09:31