With the sunny, rolling tune “Island,” Greek guitarist Christos Anestopoulos sets the perfect temperature. The song (recalling the hopefulness of “Feelin’ Groovy/59th Street Bridge Song”) pulls us outdoors to balmy climes, inviting us far away from our worries.
He uses the same engaging approach in the title song of his upcoming CD, “Déjà Vu,” a folksy, lovingly told ballad. In another new song, “Two Steps (Part II),” the bass is spare at first, then picks up speed, then utilizes the bow to convey the heat and gravity; while Anestopoulos’s guitar sings in a minor key and concludes with mystery, never resolving into the major.
He is soon to release this new album “Déjà Vu,” a sweet selection of songs that promises to be highlighted by the guitarist’s tenderness and sense of invention.
What did your musical training consist of?
My first serious contact with music was connected to technology. At the age of 10, I had built a radio station and played music on the FM frequency. It was very special to broadcast on the radio at that time, since there were very few stations in the wider area I live in (Patras, Greece).
With the radio I discovered the rock music of Pink Floyd, Doors, Camel, King Crimson …
I started classical guitar lessons at 16 years old with Dionysis Sampaziotis. From the first lesson, he provided me a wider view of the music without limitations and borders. So I went on to learn classical, rock, jazz and ethnic music.
Soon I was started singing and playing guitar at clubs in Patras.
I started electric guitar lessons with Dionysis, and later with Takis Barberis and much later with Giotis Samaras. I got a degree in classical guitar and I attended many seminars near my town with Pat Martino, John Ambercrombie, John Scofield, Markos Alexiou and others.
From the beginning, I had, on the one hand, the classical guitar, and on the other electric guitar.
How would you characterize your own sound?
It’s a mix of classical, rock, jazz, ethnic and techno. Of course the sound of ECM has influenced me incredibly.
Is there a strong network of support for indie artists in Greece?
In Greece, it is terribly difficult to promote this kind of music. Jazz and especially classical music is very limited. All of it, you have to do by yourself.
Apart from a festival in recent years that is quite remarkable, I would not say that there is a support network in general in modern music in Greece.
When you compose, what themes or ideas inspire you?
The truth is that the titles and pictures in the songs I’m writing come at the end, after a piece is finished. I would say that the music itself inspires me.
When I start working on a melody, I study and research the melody and over time it ends up in a complete piece.
What is the jazz scene like where you live?
There are many notable music performers and also composers in Greece, even where I live, although it’s a small town.
We just do not have the potential to create and develop gigs and collaborations. It is very difficult to create and complete a jazz/ethnic/classical project in Greece. I’m sure the audience would be very interested, but there is no infrastructure and support for this kind of music.
Of course there are some festival exceptions.
Talk about “Island” – what inspired it?
The basic melody of “Island” I started writing on a beach on an Aegean island in Kythnos, an afternoon in a wonderful place called Agios Dimitrios.
After that I worked for a long time, and “Island” was slowly completed, so the title.
One of my favorite tracks is “Wish You Could Stay,” a heavy, mournful piece. I always liked slow ballads that combine intense melody and improvisation, a mix of jazz and rock. The influence of the ECM scene is obvious in this piece.
I dedicated it to two of my beloved grandparents, Paraskevi and Angelo, who of course have died, but also to a beloved student of mine, Aris Sfakianakis, who died very young from cancer. I wrote it when Aris was living but we knew he had advanced stage cancer.
The sound of acoustic guitar can evoke a folk music feeling, but you are clearly on a jazz track. How do you accomplish that?
Although my first instrument was the classical guitar, I always tried to combine technology. Over the years, it has come to pieces like “Friselland,” “Swinging Over the Surfaces” and more.
How has your music evolved from 2003’s CD “Swinging Over the Surfaces” to the recent “Wish You Could Stay”?
“Swinging Over the Surfaces” was my first album. I wrote it with almost nothing in terms of equipment: cheap microphones, ancient computers, cheap drums; then for the first time I discovered the synthesizer.
On “Deja Vu,” the album that I’m working on now, I believe I’ve matured, although the technical difficulties remain a challenge.
Do you like the drama and mystery in the title song (“Wish You Could Stay”)?
It’s about death, loss and the unknown that will come to us all sometime.
But I always believe that somewhere in all this pessimism and the despair, there is a bright side, a very strong force, that’s not seen at first glance.
Miles Davis’ “Tune Up”- explain why you chose to perform that.
Miles occupies a huge chapter in modern music. I was always interested in the harmony of his tracks and the space they give you for improvisation. “Tune Up” is such a piece.
Favorite venue outside of Greece?
I really like the jazz scene in Norway. I’d like to watch Norwegian festivals and hope some time to play in one.
Talk about the Orange Trio.
The combination of the violin with the cello and classical guitar is wonderful, warm and friendly, which I’ve always liked. The trio started to play only classical works.
In your Vivaldi concerto, the guitar adds something very different from the cello. Why do you enjoy these pieces?
Vivaldi sounds great on the guitar, so with the trio, the sound is very beautiful and complete.
Plans to grow your career in 2018?
It’s difficult to promote the music I play. But I always try for something better. My goal is to write as much music as I can, and go as far as I can.
Now that I’ve finished our third album, “Déjà vu,” it’s pure acoustic, classical guitar, sax, double bass and drums. This quartet is very nice and if I find opportunities to play enough live shows they’ll be very beautiful. There are some great musicians I love to play with, David Lynch on sax, Vasilis Podaras on drums, Vasilis Stefanopoulos on double bass and me on classic guitar.
Are young people there engaged in jazz as an art form?
In Greece for several years jazz is at a very high level, combining with traditional rock music. Also, more, new students are involved with it, but the prospect of not being able to make a living from music makes young people quit.
Thank you very much for the interest and the opportunity you gave me to talk about my music. More on my next album “Déjà vu” which will be released shortly!
For more information visit www.christosanestopoulos.com.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of Christos Anestopoulos. Top photo © Patros Events.
© Debbie Burke 2018