Anthony Jackson and Yiorgos Fakanas: Interspirits
It may come as a surprise to anyone wading through bass guitar giant Anthony Jackson's discography, which mind bogglingly totals over three thousand recordings, that he has never recorded a solo album. The legendary bassistwho has played with an astonishing variety of artists of the caliber of Chick Corea, Roberta Flack, the O'Jays, Buddy Rich, Paul Simon, Chaka Khan, Michel Petrucciani, Michel Camilo, Pat Metheny, Quincy Jones, Steely Dan and Wayne Krantz to name but a small numberhas simply never valued his compositional skills sufficiently to cut a record of his own. Not even Quincy Jones could persuade him otherwise. Jackson though, has never been one to crave the limelight and, in forty years as a bass guitarist behind some of the greatest names in modern music, he has taken only a handful of recorded solos.
From left: Anthony Jackson, Yiorgos Fakanas
A trip to Greece in late 2007 to play a concertsurprisingly, his first visit to this country in four decades as a professional musicianwould result in Interspirit (Abstract Logix, 2010), the first recording to which he has put his name as a leader/co-leader. Oddly, perhaps, it is collaboration with a fellow bassist, Yiorgos Fakanas, who's also a busy composer. The resultant music of this meeting is, broadly speaking, fusion music; the best of Greek jazz musicians combining with heavyweights of the genre like Frank Gambale, Dave Weckl and Mitch Forman.
More specifically, it is a fusion of like minds, as Fakanas and Jackson share a musical vision which draws from wide sources and appreciates music for its own sake, regardless of category; European, American, classical, New World, Old World, jazz and funk are all there in the mix, and the result is a vibrant and unquestionably modern fusion. It is a fascinating coming together of two great musical mindsand, as they themselves reveal, a very natural process at every step of the way.
"I was touring in October '07," says Jackson taking up the story, "and the last stop on the tour was Athens. I'd never been to Greece before." In Jackson's touring band were drummer Dennis Chambers, guitarist Mike Stern and saxophonist Bob Franceschini. Stern and Franceschini were killing two birds with one stone; in addition to the gig with Jackson they had lined up some concerts with Fakanas, with whom they had previously recorded on the Greek bassist/composer's Domino (ANAM Records, 2005). The club they were playing in was owned by Fakanas, and during a break in the gig Jackson got to hear Fakanas' CD, which immediately struck a deep rooted chord. "It wasn't the typical bassist album," recalls Jackson, "it was an orchestral album with horns and augmented with strings. It was obviously a composer's album. This was a serious composer, not just a bassist who writes songs."
A serious composer, indeed; Fakanas, in fact, is one of Greece's most versatile composers and a renowned musical educator who has taught over six hundred bass students at his own music school. The author of a staggering seventeen books on bass playing and musical theory, it is fair to say that he has exercised a significant influence in Greek conservatories and on a very large number of musicians. No slouch himself as a recording artist, Fakanas has participated in over seven hundred recordings, has written music for film and theatre and founded ISKRA, Greece's first jazz-fusion group. Like Jackson, Fakanas has a deep appreciation of classical music and has performed with and conducted some of Greece's most important orchestral groups.
Fakanas' club, Athina Live, is often host to touring musicians from America and Europe and when Jackson passed through with his band Fakanas took the opportunity to let him hear his music:"During the intermission, he heard Domino, with Dave Weckl on drums and Mike Stern on guitar," Fakanas relates. It had an impact on Jackson as Fakanas continues: "He liked it very much and asked me if I had written the whole thing because he was very surprised that a bassist could compose and arrange music in that way."
Jackson also listened to Fakanas's previous CD, Echoes (Libere Records, 2004), which featured trumpeter Wallace Roney. This CD, based on Greek themes, was written and arranged for a jazz orchestra plus string ensemble, and made such an impression on Jackson that when Fakanas proposed that they record an album together Jackson didn't need much persuading.