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08 Dec

Vasilis Xenopoulos Interview

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Vasilis Xenopoulos – A Greek jazzman in London - Born in Athens, educated at Berklee and a London resident for many years, Vasilis Xenopoulos is a blazing tenor saxophonist able to play in a wide variety of styles and settings. Vasilis is very active on the UK Jazz Scene and currently plays as a regular member in different bands. Jazz online met him in Athens for a little chat.

1- Were your early musical influences and which musician was special to you ?
VX- My first serious influence was saxophonist Dexter Gordon. I was 14 at the time and the first one of his personal albums I was exposed to was "GO" under legendary label Blue Note. In later years I started embracing different influences and approaches from tenor sax legends such as Johnny Griffin, Hank Mobley, Stanley Turrentine, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt. All the above people played a great role on my sound and stylistic development.

2- You have been a London resident for many years. In which way do you think that the jazz scene is different in Greece than in the UK ?
VX- There are quiet a lot of differences and it would take us forever to list them here. I'll mention two basic ones. The first one has to do with the amount of different venues all over UK which specialise on the jazz idiom, and therefore you get many opportunities to present your current work to a vast number of people. in addition, jazz artists still get a fair percentage of the public money provided by the UK arts council in order to support their recording and touring projects. The second difference has to do with the existence of a large straight ahead jazz scene in the UK, which is massively important to me as it's the style I've been associated for most of my career. It's only in recent years that I've noticed the Greek jazz scene to develop a more serious interest towards straight ahead jazz collectively. Before that, it was mainly down to certain individuals who with great effort managed to keep that particular style alive and going.

3- With all those people you have worked with, which one do you believe is closer to you musically ?
VX- I will have to name straight away British Jazz guitarist Nigel Price. I'm still as we speak involved on his 40 date tour, which to my acknowledgement is the biggest jazz tour in Britain in recent years. We seem to have a strong partnership and a few of the jazz promoters show an interest to book us together.

4- Your album “Wind Machine” got great reviews in UK and the United States. Could you tell us a few words about it and how does It feel to get such a recognition ?
VX- I've always enjoyed the energy and volume of sound you get from a Big Band and through the Wind Machine project, I found a way to carry all that energy to a smaller line-up (Quintet). The band went on tour between April and June 2014 and it got some very good reviews including Sunday Times and BBC Radio 3. Obviously I was honoured by all the nice things that were written about the album and I'm trying to use all that positive energy towards any new directions and projects.

5- Are you planning to play somewhere in Athens soon ?
VX- The standard of the Athenian Jazz scene has improved massively over the last decade and this is one of the main reasons I enjoy flying back and doing live gigs in the Greek capital more and more in recent years. My next visit is during Christmas and first half of January coming up and there are already a few really nice gigs lined-up. I have a full list of where I will be appearing on next on my website's itinerary

6- What are you working on these days ?
VX- I'm working on some of my own compositions and arrangements which most likely will be recorded on my next personal album.

7- How do you see yourself in 10 years from now ?
VX- It's a hard one to answer this as 10 years it's a very long time. If things carry on the same way the do now, I would probably say that my permanent base would be between London and Athens

8- A comment on Greek jazz musicians you know.
VX- There are more than a few excellent musicians in Greek Jazz at the moment and therefore it would have been a bit unfair to mention one or two. I promise on a different occasion that would specialise on that subject to talk a bit more.


Interview Patricia Graire - December 2014

More about Vasilis Xenopoulos

Last modified on Friday, 11 December 2015 15:22