In Conversation with Jazz Bassist and Composer Petros Klampanis

Petros Klampanis is a jazz bassist from Greece, his new album Irrationalities explores new territory

We’ve been fans of Petros Klampanis’ compositions, adaptations of Greek musical traditions, bass technique, and inventive live performances for years. Originally hailing from Zakynthos, the jazz musician now performs all over the world, both solo and with different ensembles. His sounds combine classical training with a distinctive influence from Mediterranean and Balkan sounds. While exploring the unique rhythms of Greece wasn’t the direction Klampanis originally foresaw for his music, a move to New York in 2008 sparked the perspective shift that led him to incorporate Greek and Balkan sounds into his compositions. Klampanis’ live performances are always innovative: he may involve the audience in a lively call and response, an unexpected move from a jazz artist. Solo, he explores the bass’s potential, and occasionally unexpectedly uses his voice as a percussive and melodic element to accompany his strings.

For those unfamiliar, Petros Klampanis tours globally, and has performed at such storied venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC’s Blue Note Jazz Club, the legendary Cornelia Street Cafe, and Kennedy Center in Washington DC. He has also performed at the internationally acclaimed JazzAhead Festival in Bremen, XJazz Festival in Berlin, Megaron Mousikis Athinon, the Onassis Foundation Performing Centre in NYC, and the Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre.

Klampanis is about to release a fourth album, Irrationalities. There are just 10 days left to back this multimedia project (we dive deeper into this below… so keep reading!) on Kickstarter. The project involves several collaborators, both musical and visual, who Klampanis specifically chose to see this vision come to life. If you love jazz, artists pushing boundaries, supporting independent musicians, or any combination thereof, this one is a no brainer. Click here to back Irrationalities and learn more about the project.

Read on for DR’s inspiring Q & A with Petros Klampanis.

Petros Klampanis is an acclaimed jazz bassist and composer based in NYC and Athens
photo © Giorgos Lizardos

Tell us a bit about the team behind Irrationalities. From your musical collaborators to the designer for the album’s visual elements, all is very intentional. How did you find this particular team and come together on this project? 

The team that comes together for ‘Irrationalities’ is an international group of people that I handpicked over the course of 10 years. Firstly, the two members of my trio, Kristjan Randalu, and Bodek Janke, are good friends of mine, and we’ve been collaborating since 2009. Both are extraordinary musicians and I feel honoured to work with them. As you mention, Irrationalities is also a visual project. Antonis Kitsikis, a young and very promising cinematographer and director is responsible for the music videos of the album, which are bound to be published around the release of ‘Irrationalities’ this October. Alina Lefa, a very talented Athenian photographer, has provided her imaginative touch in the project. Another Athenian, Katerina Karali, known for her work at Popaganda.gr, a big online multimedia magazine, is going to design the cover and promotional material of Irrationalities. Her work combines elements of pop culture, collage, and surrealism. I fell in love with her work, at first sight! Lastly, Nate Wood and James Farber, two amazing sound engineers and musical geniuses are involved in the audio post-production of the album.

 

Kristjan, Petros, Bodek, PK Trio © Alina Lefa

 


One of the songs on Irrationalities is rhythmically inspired by the kalamatiano. You often find inspiration in Greek and Balkan music. What prompted the interest in exploring the 7/8 from kalamatiano? Do you feel like these musical traditions are under-appreciated or underutilized in the jazz world? 

I intentionally started exploring Greek music, after moving to NYC, around 12 years ago. Growing up in Greece I was kind of overwhelmed by the Greek music and was looking for a way out, which apparently came through Jazz. In NY, it was kind of the other way around. Kalamatiano is a very established dance, rhythm and musical ‘vibe’ if you will, that I realised it’s unknown to most people outside Greece-except maybe the Indians, who have ‘Rupak-taal’ in their musical tradition, a very similar rhythm. I find purpose by combining elements from Greek music and Jazz or ‘western’ music. The combination is very fruitful and charming if done with balance, respect, and knowledge of both worlds. There is a lot of space for exploration and I’m looking forward to continuing this journey.

 

Petros Klampanis captured by Alina Lefa

Chroma was influenced by world events, including how Greece has been impacted by the refugee crisis and its own economic/government meltdown. With Irrationalities you seem to take a step towards looking critically at the experience of being self-aware and embracing one’s inner conflicts. Do you have any practices in your life for exploring this?

I feel that Irrationalities is the musical result of a period in my life during which many of my established thoughts, internal structures and ideas started to feel insufficient, if I may say that. It has happened to me before and I guess it can often happen to everyone. Sometimes you don’t have the answers and feel lost in the universe of possibilities. What is right and what is wrong? Is there such a thing? This is the place that the music of Irrationalities started forming. A place of uncertainty, but also freedom. Life is changing constantly, internally and externally and the only way to survive is having the courage to change and adapt.

Photo © Alina Lefa


Tell us a bit more about the production of Irrationalities – and why we should be excited about supporting it on Kickstarter

It’s my first trio album and I find this musical vehicle extremely compelling for its simplicity, honesty, and transparency. As I said I have the pleasure of working with two of my musical heroes, Bodek and Kristjan who constantly inspire me and challenge me. This record consists of 7 tracks, 5 originals and 2 covers. A team of amazing artists is collaborating for the creation of a unique audio and visual experience that will be released with the help of the Kickstarter pledgers. I find this independent way of production very charming and creative. Everyone who backs the project becomes part of the production and is actively helping to create a brand new work of Art.

 


What advice would you give to younger Greeks in Greece with creative ambitions?

Greece has been providing the world with lots of creative minds over the centuries and I feel very optimistic about the young generations. I see the difference since I left Greece around 15 years ago. Young people are very up-to-date and in tune with what is happening outside the country. I would encourage them to follow their dreams because there is no other way to live life in full. 

 

Click here to back Irrationalities on Kickstarter – just 10 days left at the time of this posting! You can earn some lovely PK merch and music, t-shirts, LPs, etc, for your pledge. To learn more about Petros Klampanis visit his website.

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