Anthony Jackson and Yiorgos Fakanas: Interspirits
Fakanas's writing is ambitious, with some of the pieces written and arranged for up to fourteen musicians. On "Cuore Vibes Part 2," there is even a third bassist, Tasos Kazaglis on contrabass. If this seems like an excess which even Ornette Colemanwould shy from, there is a very simple explanation, as Fakanas reveals: "Tasos is a very good classical double-bassist, and is part of the string ensemble. I'm using this double-bass in order to give a more complete character to the string ensemble. It's a string quartet plus a double-bass. He's playing in the upper octaves in order not to be between me and Anthony."
Much of the music on Interspirit has the feel of a little big band, something which Fakanas is quick to recognize: "That's exactly the point," affirms Fakanas. "When I was growing up in Greece in the late seventies and early eighties, we didn't have any schools offering jazz education. But I had a very good opportunity to learn; when I was nineteen years old I was chosen by the Greek government to represent Greece in the European Youth Jazz Orchestra. It was a big band made up of musicians under twenty-three years of age, from all the European countries. It was impossible to have something like that in Greece at that time, so it was a major influence on me. The leaders, pianist Michael Garrick, and Bill Ashton were composing and arranging. John Etheridge was one of the band instructors.
"When I returned to Greece I started composing tunes," continues Fakanas, "and kept in mind the big-band concept. That's what I'm trying to do with my quintet, because I always like a lot of rhythm in my compositions. At the same time I leave space for improvisation, and this characterizes my music. The sound of a big band is always somewhere in my compositions."
The musicians who make up the Kinisis String Quartet of Colours Orchestra and the seven-piece brass section hail from Greece, and are joined by Weckl, Gambale and Foreman. Fakanas brought the Americans into the project and is delighted by their contribution: "All of them play like it is their own album," he enthuses. For Jackson, who has collaborated with all three over the years, their inclusion in the project was significant: "It was one of the things that made me less apprehensive about committing to my first project of this kind," he explains, "the fact that Yiorgos was not only talking about getting the best players but putting it into action. It gave me confidence to commit. I knew that here was somebody with whom I could have a productive and rewarding musical association. How could I say no?"
A productive association it has certainly been, for Interspirit is one of the more original fusion recordings of recent years, with playing of the highest standard. It has been a demanding but ultimately rewarding experience on a personal level for both Fakanas and Jackson. For Fakanas, simply playing alongside Jackson was somewhat intimidating: "It was a great honor for me but also a great challenge because Anthony Jackson plays the same instrument and he's one of the greatest bass players ever! I wanted to make something that he would be proud of." Jackson, despite the personal challenges he faced, is justifiably pleased with the results: "It was a very intense and very rewarding project," he says. "Interspirit was the first project of its kind where there was a chance to experiment with something I had long thought about. I had never come into a project where the music was written around me as the featured player. Interspirit gave me the chance to reach out and find myself. I'm pleased with the way it turned out."
The hope is to bring the music to a live audience, as Fakanas explains: "Right now we're trying to organize tours with Anthony and me on bass, with Mitch Forman and Horacio "El Negro" Hernandezon drums, along with saxophonist Takis Paterelis and trombonist Antonis Andreou. In Greece, we played just seven concerts but we are hoping to tour America, Europe and Asia later this year. And I'm looking forward to future collaborations with Anthony," Fakanas confirms.
For Jackson, too, the ambition is tour with this music, the economy and logistics permitting. However, there is a determination in his voice when he says: "It's not going to be easy but I have confidence that it will happen and it's something that I want to happen. It's going to happen." As for the suggestion by Fakanas that there may be future collaborations, there is little doubt in Jackson's mind: "I am certainly going to collaborate with Yiorgos again on other projects where he is going to write orchestral music with me as a featured performer. I have always wanted to play with an orchestra. Yiorgos is the first person I have had the chance to record with in such a context. "