Greece in Smithsonian's Jazz Appreciation Month
Greek saxophonist, vocalist and composer Dimitri Vassilakis and his trio, consisting of Theo Hill (piano), Essiet Okon Essiet (bass), and Ronnie Burrage (drums), performed on April 19, 2007 at Baird Auditorium of the National History Museum, during the Smithsonian Institution's annual Jazz Appreciation Month Festival.
Having been compared to Sonny Rollins for his story-like quality of composition, to Joe Lovano for intensely controlled and muted voice-like playing, and to John Coltrane for a uniform sound, Vassilakis used his Greek heritage to create a warm, bright tone with a distinctively Mediterranean/Balkan intonation.
The program included a selection of tunes from his award-winning recordings for Candid Record, Secret Path, Daedalus Project-Labyrinth, and Parallel Lines, that combine Greek and Balkan elements, such as odd rhythms, scales, and modes, with modern jazz. It also included a selection of standards from the great American songbook, displaying the notable similarity of the early blues to the Greek rebetika. A common thread was improvisation, counterpoint, polyrhythm, thematic development, Balkan and Mediterranean intonation, and vocal improvisation. The modern jazz scales were based on the ancient Greek modes, while a lot of the rhythmic intensity of the music of the Balkans was similar to the modal jazz and fusion jazz styles.
Mr. Vassilakis has studied saxophone, piano and composition at the London College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. A distinguished member of the International Association of Schools of Jazz and representative for Greece, he has played at many international festivals and has conducted workshops in the US, England, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, and the Balkans. He is currently lecturing at the Music Department of the Macedonia University in Thessaloniki.
His first album Secret Path was released by Candid Records (1999), one of the most important and historic jazz labels, while his second album Daedalus Project-Labyrinth (2001), produced by David Liebman, was recorded in New York with Ralph Peterson, Mark Johnson, Andy Sheppard and other top US jazz musicians.
SPONSORED BY: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Directorate of Cultural Affairs.