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Take Five With Petros Klampanis


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Meet Petros Klampanis: Bassist, composer, and arranger Petros Klampanis grew up on the Zakynthos Island in Greece, a place with a very rich musical heritage, where Italian and Balkan music traditions melt together.

This music amalgam was Petros' first major influence and seed of inspiration to pick up the piano and guitar, and start singing in local choirs at a very early age.

After finishing high school, he moved to Athens in order to attend the city's Polytechnic school. It wasn't long before he realized that the ship engineering course was not as desirable as it seemed, so he decided to take exams for the Music department of Athens University. His life would take another positive turn when he was accepted in 2001. During Klampanis' time in Athens, he had the chance of playing with some of the finest Greek jazz artists today.

From 2005 to 2007, Kampanis continued to pursue a formal education in music by joining the double bass department of the Amsterdam Conservatory, where he got his BA degree and graduated with distinction.

From there, Petros toured in Europe (Germany, Holland, Luxemburg, Belgium, France, Spain, Monaco, Portugal, Switzerland, Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) and took part in many major European jazz festivals. During this time, he received many awards and honors in major music competitions, most notably the Hoeilaart/Brussels Jazz Competition in 2008, and the YPF International Jazz Concourse and Amersfoort Jazz Competition both in 2007.

In 2008, Klampanis moved to New York City to study, eventually earning a Masters in jazz performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music.

Today, Klampanis performs in various venues in New York, sharing the stage with many top musicians from the New York jazz scene including Greg Osby, Gilad Hekselman, Jean-Michel Pilc, Ari Hoenig, Shai Maestro, Sara Serpa, Paul Bollenback, Gretchen Parlato, Antonio Hart and Michael Mossman, to name a few. Additionally, Klampanis serves as a guest teacher at the Oberlin Conservatory and the Ionian Music University of Corfu, Greece.

His first album as a leader, Contextual—featuring Gretchen Parlato, David Berkman and Paul Bollenback performing original material for string quartet and solo double bass—was released in 2011 by Inner Circle Music label and has received rave reviews.


Double bass.

Teachers and/or influences?

Jean-Michel Pilc, Ari Hoenig, Antonio Hart and Michael Mossman are some of the teachers I had in the past.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

My parents bought a keyboard for my older sister and I spent most of my time figuring out the chords and melodies of songs from the '80s Greek TV programs.

Your sound and approach to music:

I want my music to flow, breathe and sing. I want people to enjoy it and sing it, dance it and get inspired by it.

The bass sound is a combination of percussion and human voice. Sometimes during a performance the bass sound is either percussive or approaches the role of the voice, depending on the musical needs of the moment.

Your teaching approach:

My approach to teaching consists a lot of playing, singing, even dancing and generally learning on the spot. My good friend and wonderful percussionist, Jamey Haddad, calls that approach contextual learning. I think young people, especially nowadays, have an amazing learning capacity and I try to take advantage of it when I am given the role of teacher, either privately or at workshops

Your dream band:

Miles Davis' second great quintet, with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

During the Icelandic volcano eruption I had to travel from Amsterdam to Athens in order to meet my friend Gilad Hekselman and percussionist Bodek Janke for a series of concerts in Greece.

It was impossible to fly, so I had to use ground transportation. The only problem was that the whole of Europe was facing the same problem. It was a time of chaos and I had to deal with it carrying my double bass and a suitcase full of CDs and effect processors. I still remember a poor guy missing his train at the Frankfurt central train station, when he walked out of the track to make a quick question to a person working at the station.

After two days of delayed train departures, a night sleeping on a bench at Zurich's Central train station and traveling with probably the oldest ship in existence from Ancona to Kerkyra, I ended up hitchhiking in Greece for a ride to Athens. Finally, a track driver accepted me, my bass and my stuffed suitcase and he eagerly started sharing his experiences from his road travels from the past 20 years, while I was trying to get some rest. When I finally arrived to Athens it was just a couple of hours before the first concert.

Favorite venue:

Carnegie Hall.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

My favorite recording in my discography is my album Contextual. I learned a lot by doing that CD. I worked with wonderful musicians, I composed and arranged extensively and discovered new things on the bass and how to capture them on an album. I am very happy with that album and I am really looking forward to the recording process for the next one.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Dave Brubeck's Time Out

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

A proposition of combining jazz, classical and world music sounds.

Did you know...

I really like visual arts. I make most of the posters for my shows.

CDs you are listening to now:

Fred Hersch, Plays Jobim (Sunnyside Records);

Tomatito, Agua Dulce (Universal);

Tigran Hamasyan, A Fable (Verve);

Brad Mehldau, Highway Rider (Nonesuch);

Dhafer Youssef, Digital Prophecy (Enja).

Desert Island picks:

Keith Jarrett, Live in Tokyo (ECM);

Radiohead, OK Computer (Parlophone);

Elis and Tom, Tom Jobim (Philips);

The Cleveland Orchestra, Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un Faune (Deutsche Grammophon);

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (Columbia).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

I think that there are many creative musicians nowadays, maybe more than any previous time of jazz history. What occurs to me is that one of the hazards that Jazz music is facing is the extreme growth of intellect in comparison to the musical instinct and emotion.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Like Thelonious Monk said, once you groove make sure you groove more. This quote could be interpreted in terms of musical quality. Musicians should always try to keep the music level as high as possible.

Schools should support music and encourage young individuals to be exposed to various musical genres.

What is in the near future?

I am planning to release my second album with music for string quartet and a jazz quartet, consisting of Jean-Michel Pilc on the piano, Gilad Hekselman on guitar and John Hadfield on percussion. I am also working on a tour with my trio, Gilad Hekselman and Bodek Janke, in Europe during May/June, 2013.

I am also currently recording a duo album with vibraphonist Christos Rafalides. This new project is called Point 2.

What's your greatest fear when you perform?

My greatest fear is not being able to project the sound that I have in my mind.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

"Blame it on my Youth."

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

Hard to believe, but: "Ain't Nobody," by Chaka Khan.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

A Cook. I think composition and music delivery is a very similar process as the preparation of a dish. Both processes demand creativity, fantasy, skills, instinctual decision making and always keeping in mind the ones you are feeding.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Petros Klampanis

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