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Conversation With Yiorgos Fakanas

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Meet Editor, Jake Kot –

I first heard about Yiorgos through Anthony Jackson’s manager, and after some investigation I quickly discovered that this particular individual had all the components of a world class musician. Sporting a very “unique” voice on his instrument (always a challenge) is just part of his musical makeup. His strength as a composer and arranger is an equal match to his undeniable virtuosity as a player. Quotes like these can easily obtain legitimacy by giving a close listen to his CD Domino which features Mike Stern, Dave Weckl, and one seriously talented bassist/composer. Further acknowledgement of this man’s depth as an artist is realized by Yiorgos being asked by bass legend Anthony Jackson to compose the music for his first solo CD under his own name, which Yiorgos himself will be the first to tell you what an honor it was taking on that responsibility. Acknowledgement like that from a peer of this stature speaks volumes. Displaying obviously sharpened compositional skills, a wonderfully melodic and seasoned voice on his instrument, and a keen eye on his future as an artist will most assuredly draw attention to this 21st century musician that embraces a passion for taking the music to another place, and beyond his personal musical prowess makes it a point to “keep” the music first and foremost on that journey.

Jake: Let’s first step back historically with you. Your work with the big band Eurojazz was a bit of a turning point in your evolution as a bassist. Tell me about what happened for you in that particular time period.

Yiorgos: Actually, this was in 1980. The European community decided to create a band for young jazz players in Europe, up to the age of 23. They asked me to represent Greece in this particular endeavor. I had to pass an audition, and it was a great honor to be involved with this project. It consisted of 30 musicians that were considered to be the best young musicians in Europe. I played with that band for three years touring all over Europe. It was actually the first time in my life that I had the opportunity to play with a big band, because at that time Greece had virtually no “big bands” to speak of. That was a beginning for me, not only for my bass playing, but for the development of my composing and arranging skills as well. I had the opportunity to see, and listen, and learn about the compositional skills needed for a band like this.

Jake: Did your career as a composer more or less start after this particular musical experience?

Yiorgos: Actually, I started composing at the age of fifteen. I always loved the sound of big orchestras, and in my first compositions I was trying to arrange for three horns, and I wasn’t really sure how to do that. So I was experimenting with different ideas at that point, and at that time there was really no jazz happening in Greece. So not only did I have to learn to play my instrument by myself, I had to learn about arranging, and jazz in general for that matter on my own.

Jake: The evolution of the solo bass artist has gone through many changes since the days of Jaco and Stanley. Tell me some of your aspirations, and what you’re hoping to achieve as a quote unquote solo bass artist in today’s music culture.

Yiorgos: There were many bassists who influenced me as I started considering putting out my own music. There was of course Jaco, and Anthony Jackson, who is actually sitting next to me as we speak, and is curious about what I’m going to say. (laughs) I was very influenced by both of these players, as they were two completely different personalities on their instrument—-two different sounds, two different mentalities. And I think if someone hears my playing today, they would hear the influence of both of these players within my style, and I see their influences definitely more or less shaping my future. I’m looking to be able to successfully fulfill the responsibilities that any bass player would have, and I also want to continue to compose my own music and become better compositionally as an artist because I believe that this is the way to excel in the future. I believe that a bassist has all the inherent elements needed to be a good composer and arranger because the bass is the foundation of everything that happens musically. The bass is the first thing in my mind, and many times that evolves into a composition, and that opens the door to be able to share my musical ideas with other musicians.

Jake: I’d like to talk about a recent quote of yours I read, that being, “I always go for those points where musicality supersedes exhibitionism”. As a composer, do you find it challenging to bring that philosophy to your compositional work as well?

Yiorgos: Absolutely, and I follow that same philosophy as a writer. I’m a teacher, and I have a lot of younger students. Most of them have been listening a lot to players that are focusing on the slap techniques and seem to feel they need to have these techniques available to them. Knowing these techniques can be useful, but I don’t feel it’s what they should be centering the focus of their studies around. As far as my quote goes, I choose to look more in depth at being a “total” bassist, for lack of a better word, understanding the importance of harmony, and phrasing, and interplay among fellow players. I believe when someone focuses purely on technique they’re missing the greater picture, and their playing becomes more exhibitionism than musicality, as I mentioned.

Don’t misunderstand me, those techniques can certainly be used in a musical way, but it shouldn’t be the center of attention from first note to last. And all these concepts apply to the compositional process as well. As a writer, I choose to use compositional techniques in the same manner that I would as a bassist, with a greater purpose in mind. I employ these methods whether I’m writing for a small ensemble, or a big band, or a string ensemble, or an orchestra, and I’m currently writing for all of these different musical situations. I try to write in a variety of, I guess I’ll say musical moods. I also do arrangements for other people’s material, and throughout all of this I try to keep that same philosophy we spoke of, and focus on being able to express musically what’s happening in the moment.

Jake: Your improvisational skills, which I enjoy by the way, are a strong part of your makeup. Rather than asking what you studied to get there, I’m going to ask what you are working on right now to yet to expand your improvisational voice.

Yiorgos: I remember when I started to improvise, I was trying to imitate what I was hearing. Gradually, I combined the knowledge I had gained from the past along with my present studies and started to conceptualize my own vocabulary. I think the secret to becoming a better improviser is to try to find your own vocabulary, and strive to be proud of all the notes that you are playing—-trust yourself, and your instincts. After a period of time you begin to see a maturity in your playing. And this is what I strive for now, to take the ideas and the phrasing I had from the past and work them into, an around the voice I have now. So I see the combination of past and present creating the future in a manner of speaking. It’s also about a combination of knowledge, and experience, and expression. On a practical level, I have books, and I’m always trying to listen to other artists solos, and as of late I’m trying to be able to sing my solos—not mimicking what I’m playing, but trying to sing the solo before I play it.

Jake: What other aspects are you working on as well within your practice routine?

Yiorgos: Some of my time is spent on transcriptions, which I try to do without my instrument. I could be in a coffee shop and I’ll hear some music that I find interesting, and I’ll try to either write it down or put it on my computer if I have it with me. This is a way I’ve found to yet further develop my skills, and my ear as well.

Jake: I know you’ve toured and recorded with guitarist Mike Stern. How has your musical relationship with him impacted you as a player?

Yiorgos: I’m glad to say that I have a great relationship with Mike. He is a fantastic guitar player and always shows great enthusiasm when putting together new music, especially when he is inspired by the music. The way he played on Domino, the last CD we put together was amazing, and he was kind enough to share with me how inspired he was about the music I wrote for him. We also did quite a few live concerts together, and that was even a better experience as far as playing with him is concerned. It’s an honor to be able to play with musicians that you have a great deal of admiration for. It seems to inspire me to work at a very high level when playing with musicians of that caliber. I also find that when you’re able to play with players on Mikes level that your self confidence, as well as your musicianship in general becomes better and better. It also bears mentioning that Mike is a very nice person, and that makes a difference as well.

Jake: Speaking of a particular players influence, I know you’ve developed a close relationship with Anthony Jackson, who ironically is sitting in the same room with you as we speak. So if you’re not too uncomfortable with speaking of him as he sits a few feet away from you, I’d like to hear how he, and the relationship you’ve developed has impacted you.

Yiorgos: I met Anthony for the first time when he came here and played with Mike Stern and Dennis Chambers. I knew of his playing through the many recordings that I had heard him on. But the first time I heard him live, I was really surprised, and moved, even though I felt I knew his playing. He had heard me on an earlier recording I had released and asked me if I had written any of the music on that particular CD, or just played bass on it. I told him I had done all the writing and arranging, and he told me how great that was because bass players were almost always fulfilling the sideman role at that point in time, and usually weren’t involved in the compositional and production end of most products. I thanked him for that, and told him what a great experience it was to hear him “live” as opposed to listening to him on a recording, as there’s always a difference involved.

After a short period of time we became very good friends and we started sharing ideas not only about bass playing, but about life in general, and music. I was then very honored with a proposal he offered me to compose some music specifically for him—-you can imagine what that made me feel like. I started writing for him immediately, which actually went very quickly, and I ended up writing about eight tunes within a three-week period.

So we started recording this project, and hearing him play on this recording was a big lesson for me. Not only because of his playing, but because of his sound, and his incredible ability as far as comping goes. When I heard Anthony’s comping on Wayne Shorters tune Footprints, which is one of the tunes that will be featured on his CD, it was one of the biggest musical lessons I’ve had so far in this lifetime. This is when I realized how much he had influenced my playing. So as I continue working on this project with Anthony, I realize what a blessing it is. I really want to say that I have great appreciation for Anthony trusting me to be responsible for the tunes, and for letting me play along with him on this particular CD as well. This is actually going to be his first personal CD after a long history of being a sideman for so many great musicians. I feel this will show a side of him that we haven’t been able to see in his typical sideman role. I truly don’t know what else to say beyond the fact that he’s an incredible musician, and person. The title of this CD will be Interspirit, as we are both looking forward to sharing our musical spirits.

Visit online at www.myspace.com/fakanas

Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Travis Book

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Interview With Bassist Travis Book

Interview With Bassist Travis Book…

Bluegrass music has had a very solid following over many years and I am always happy to hear from one of the pioneers in that genre.

Travis Book plays bass for the Grammy award-winning band “The Infamous Stringdusters” and has recently released his first solo album “Love and Other Strange Emotions”. As if he wasn’t busy enough, Travis also hosts a podcast, Plays a Jerry Garcia music show with Guitarist Andy Falco, and is constantly gigging locally in his neck of the woods.

Photo, Seyl Park

Visit Online:

www.thetravisbook.com
www.thestringdusters.com
FB @ TheTravisBook
IG @ travisbook

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Bass Videos

Interview with Malcolm-Jamal Warner

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Interview with Malcolm-Jamal Warner

Malcolm-Jamal Warner…

I am pretty sure that everyone is aware of Malcom-Jamal Warner’s work as an actor. What may be less known is his work as a director, poet, musician, and most importantly for us, a bass player. With four albums of his own, Grammy nominations and wins, as well as a sizable amount of ongoing live gigs, Malcolm is dedicating a serious amount of his attention to his music.

Join me as we hear about Malcom’s musical journey, projects, his gear choices, and plans for the future.

Here is Malcom-Jamal Warner!

Photos: Dwain Govan @dwain_go / Conrad Montgomery Mckethan @eyeconimages

Visit Online:

malcolmjamalwarner.com
IG @malcolmjamalwar
Twitter @malcolmjamalwar 
Facebook: Malcolm-Jamal Warner

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Bass Videos

Interview With The Labex Funk Project

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Interview With The Labex Funk Project

Interview With The Labex Funk Project…

Time really flies when you are having fun! Just over a decade ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michel “Labex” Labaki for our July 2013 cover.

At that time, much of our conversation concerned his personal approach to bass playing and his techniques. Fast forward to now and I am pleased to discover Michel’s new endeavor, the Labex Funk Project.

Join me as we meet the band:
Kynion Lanier on vocals
Pablo Batista on percussion
Jake Brightman on Guitar
Daniel Gonzalez on Drums
And Michel “Labex”Labaki on bass

As a bonus, we have the band’s producer Phillippe Dib in on this video chat as well.

Here is the Labex Funk Project!

Visit online:

michellabaki.com
www.facebook.com/MichelLabexLabaki/
www.instagram.com/michellabaki
www.youtube.com/c/MichelLabaki
FB @LabexFunkProject
IG @ Labex Funk Project

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Tony Newton

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Interview With Bassist Tony Newton

Bassist Tony Newton…

I am always learning new details about Bass history when I get the opportunity to talk with seasoned players like Tony Newton. Tony, a Detroit native, came up in the golden years of Motown and laid down the low end for countless performers and studio sessions; he has performed on over 25 gold and platinum hit recordings.

As time went by, and the whole Detroit scene dwindled, Tony relocated to LA where he worked a busy schedule, even going back to school to learn about music theory and composition.

Over the years he performed on many historic hit recordings and tours with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson(music Director), the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, The Funk Brothers and more, as well as working with veteran rock guitarist, Gary Moore in the British group G-Force.

Presently, Tony is super busy and on the verge of releasing a movie titled “Mars Quest” among his numerous other projects.

Join me as we get to enjoy all the history and knowledge that Tony has to share along with the details about his new Signature bass from BITE Guitars named “The  Punchtown Bass”.

Here is Tony Newton…

Photos: Mary K. Brand, Mitch Snyder, Haneefa Karrim, Hans Adamsen

Visit Online:

tonynewtonmusic.com/
FB @ TonyNewtonMusic Artist
YTB @ antoniotonynewtonmusic

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