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14 Mar

Yiannis Kassetas Interview

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Yiannis Kassetas is back to Greece after a highly successful launch of his new album “East N Blues” in America. Jazz composer who follow the international developments of the jazz scene, he presents his new album this month in Athens. In this record Kassetas leaves behind the avant-garde jazz  and sets up a return-to-form album. Jazzonline has met him.

1- What lead you to jazz and which jazz musicians had or have a great influence on you, and why?
It might sound strange but I first started listening to jazz because my saxophone teacher, Dimitris Vassilakis, gave me a transcription of Charlie Parker's solo of Now's the time. At first I simply didn’t like it, but as I started listening to it over and over, I started not only liking it but falling in love with it. I was also lucky to have a lot of jazz LP 's from my step father who has over 7000 records. So I just went to the living room and took some of his Rollins, Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Mingus albums. These were my first influences along with Cannonball Adderley and Dexter Gordon. After many years and many transcriptions [mostly by ear] I found out some of the modern players  like Kenny Garret Joshua Redman , Wynton Marsalis. At the same time I was really into jazz funk masters like Eddie Harris and Herbie Hancock's Headhunters. While I was in Berklee I was introduced to some Classical music of the 20th century and I got totally obsessed with the music of Debussy and Stravinsky. That led me into practising Debussy 's works on the piano (Childerns Corner , Masque).Right now I am really fascinated with the music of  the Hindu American Jazz musicians such as Vijay Ayers and Rudresh Mahanthappa (his work influenced my compositions "Eastern Funk Attack" which is included in my new cd).



2- About “East N Blues”, first of all, what about the musicians playing in this album. Who are they and how did you meet them ?
The musicians of the album are trully first rate New York based Jazz musicians that performed with passion and with incredible sense of the feel. They truly understood what I wanted to do and got deeply involved in my concept as a composer. The drummer as a Grammy award winner and internationally acclaimed musician who plays with giants like Christian McBride and Wynton Marsalis. His name is Ullysses Owens and Ihad the luck to meet him through a great musician and friend Serafeim Bellos (one of my favorite swing drummers here in Greece). Another star musician is the pianist and the trumpet player , Adam Birnbaum and Tatum Greenblatt. The second one I met at the Half Note in Athensand he was really interested in my previous cd "FunkAbyss", so, he introduced me to Adam. They both perform with giants like Al Foster , Greg Osby (Adam) and Mingus Big Band , Richard Bonna (Tattum). The bass player is a New York based musician from Greece and a good friend who has played with amazing players also such as Vincent Herring , Miles Griffith , Leo Genovese etc. His name is Apostolos Sideris. Miles Griffith is a guest on the cd and he is one of the reasons that I got the courage to do this recording. He and I have performed together here in Greece back in 2009 and he was in a way in love with some of my tunes! So he started performing them in New York jazz clubs regularly and even wrote some lyrics. He is one of the most interesting vocalists of his generation and he has a personal approach in improvisation that led him into collaborating with Wynton Marsalis and other giants of Jazz. Last but not least my friend Antonis Andreou is a guest in two compositions. He is one of the most truly gifted musicians I have ever known and also a really good and loving person.



3- Why New-York city and not Athens for recording ?
First of all , it is simply cheaper to go to New York and record then to bring all these players here in Athens...Also the studio was amazing and not very expensive. The owner of the Studio is a really good jazz pianist and the place is great for that kind of music (great piano good sound etc.).Also in New York the vibes of the city make you feel the groove inside you, I’s like your pulse is in time...!



4-This is a very different album in comparison of the previous one. Nothing to do with the Funk Wizards. What would you like to say about it ?
My main goal as a composer is to evolve and to search  different approaches harmonically and rhythmically. So when I started writing music for this project I was looking for different paths and forms compared to my previous works. I think now the music is more mature and more contemporary, sometimes dissonant harmonic structures and sometimes minimal melodies with Bluesy feels. The title "East N' Blues" has to do with some of the tunes that have an Eastern influence. This is something that I realized that comes naturally to me because of my Greek origins. Also as I mentioned before I listen to the music of Rudresh Mahanthapa how is from India and makes an amazing combination of Hindu based jazz funk grooves.



5- Are you going to make a tour in Greece to present it ?
I am in the process of booking  a tour in Northern Greece, but I would also love to perform in Southern Greece and Crete.



6- What about the Funk Wizards. Are you still performing with this band ?
Actually the new band has many of the members of The Funk Wizards and there is a funk element into it. But the main reason that made me change the name is that the music is a lot different now. The harmonic and rhythmic complexity , the "subconscious" eastern influence, and the more instrumental and less vocal styles are some of the reasons that I made the group's name "Yiannis Kassetas Group".



7- What are your plans for the following months ?
I will be presenting my new cd in some jazz clubs in Athens such as Floral on March 20 & at Jazz Point on April 5t.hen I will travel to Puerto Rico as a guest of the Jazz Festival in San Juan , where I will have a double gig. The one will be with Puerto Rican musician performing some of my compositions from "East N' Blues" and the other, I will be the musical director of a music and dance project that I have composed :  Jazz Suite. Its a very unique project  led by genius director-choreographer Dimitris Karalis and it is called "Moving Sound". I will also be performing in Deeree College where Ana Santsez, the dance instructor and amazing choreographer is presenting her work over a composition of my previous cd. On September there is a possibility of going to New York to perform in some jazz clubs there and to speak with some labels that are interested in producing "East N' Blues" in the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.



Interview Patricia Graire - March 2014



More about the Yannis Kassetas  http://www.jazzonline.gr/en/musicians/item/301-kassetas-yannis.html

More about East N Blues  http://jazzonline.gr/en/cd-releases/item/2579-east-n-blues.html

Last modified on Friday, 14 March 2014 15:44
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