Guitarist Giorgos Tabakis has invited bass clarinetist Rebecca Trescher to a musical exploration of tone and interval, shading and hue in the new CD “Dual Nature.”
Some tracks feature them together, bobbing and weaving; others are standalone solos. The instrumentation is an exciting and fresh treat for the ear.
The ability to create textures is omnipresent in the exquisite song “Interface,” a rich melody playing in the dark void of space subsumed by the fascinating timbre of the bass clarinet. “Moon Elegy” starts with a series of upwards arpeggios to amazing effect, and Trescher carries the entire song before the listener realizes they’ve actually been held captive without knowledge or consent. Tabakis’s sunny intervals in “Dawn Day Dusk” complexify to a percussive expression, then the song takes its ultimate leave with a more lyrical end statement; all of which describe, tonally, the light and weight of our daily experiences.
Why have you chosen guitar to be your voice?
Actually, I feel that I was chosen by the guitar! When I was 9 years old, my mother urged me to take guitar lessons and I agreed, without knowing anything about guitar or music in general.
In 1989 I went to the only music school there was at the time in my hometown Nafpaktos (West Greece) and there I met my teacher Costas Eliades who was coming every week from Athens. The moment I saw and listened to the sound of the guitar, I fell instantly in love with it. That first feeling is still inside me in a way!
In the following years I studied and completed my classical guitar studies with Costas and in the same period (my teenage years), I played a lot of rock music. When I was 18 I met with the internationally acclaimed guitarist Andreas Georgiou and I studied jazz and contemporary guitar – among many other things – for years.
Although I have played and studied other instruments like piano, sitar, didgeridoo, small percussion, etc., the guitar feels like an extension of my body and soul!
It is the instrument that is able to externalize my inner feelings, ideas and voice.
What aspect of jazz excites you the most?
If I had to narrow it down, I would say improvisation: compositions that come out instantly and are directly coordinated with the emotional state of the improviser. It’s a magical moment and the musical result cannot be repeated in the same way. This is the aspect that no other kind of music has.
Another exciting side of jazz for me is its capability to embrace and include any aspect of global music trends and aesthetics – from folk, world, classical to rock, contemporary, avant-garde and any combination. This makes jazz a true universal cultural language.
How does your background and heritage influence your music?
This is a very interesting question and a serious search subject for me.
My parents listened to different types of Greek music very often, so I was exposed to many elements and characteristics of our traditional and folk music throughout my childhood. Although I was never a fan, all that music is inside me in a way that is difficult to explain. I could say that the sounds, smells, images, representations and countless other elements are “carved” inside me.
In my early 20s I listened fanatically to new sounds and different kinds of music that opened my horizons. From John Mclaughlin, Oregon, Embryo, Egberto Gismonti and jazz from all genres to Nikos Skalkota’s music and all the contemporary classical music of the 20th century.
It’s a living process for me to be in touch with this and at the same time to feel free to express myself through improvisation, without feeling “trapped” by musical and aesthetic borders.
This is the way I composed the CD “Dual Nature” – contemporary and folk elements in the themes, lots of room for improvisation and instinctual playing. Rebecca Trescher was up to the task without many words or explanation.
What about the dual nature of life inspired you to create this CD?
It has to do with the poetic symbolism of male and female, day and night and other opposites and inseparable phenomena. For me it’s a continuous personal question that cannot be expressed in words. It works as a motivation and a reminder of our many human interests for the world we see and also for the world we don’t see.
While I am composing, I often experience a unique feeling of absence of any social rules, personal needs, borders and obstacles of any kind. My only interest and focus are in the formatting of a “higher” idea or concept into music that’s not yet comprehensible. Nothing else matters at the time. It’s a magical moment where everything is flowing and the possibilities are endless.
This is entirely different and opposite from my usual way of viewing life. Both states and experiences are real. It’s a “Dual Nature”!
How did you meet the other musicians?
Usually it’s one of the two following ways. When I conceive of a music concept, I try to understand the instruments that are the most suitable for it. I listen to the music in my mind again and again, and eventually I complete the compositions with some kind of certainty about the instruments and the outcome. At the same time I search for inspiring musicians that can “feel” the vibe of the project and are capable of bringing their artistic personality into my music.
Another way that works great for me is to have in mind the musicians I’m going to collaborate with while I’m composing. I’m aware of their musical capabilities, aesthetic approaches, potential and also what they probably like to play.
In the majority of my collaborations it takes a small amount of time to be “in tune” with the other musicians. It’s chemistry that matters!
What is your favorite part of writing/composing/arranging?
Without any doubt, my favorite part is the composition process. I love everything in this music procedure, from the beginning of a concept to the final outcome, the live presentation and the recordings.
Every step has something inspiring and magical to give and my goal is to be fresh, creative and as inspired as I can be.
Talk about meeting Rebecca Trescher. When did you know she would fit your musical sensibility?
In the summer of 2018 while I was on vacation in my hometown, I spent a lot of time listening to jazz and European musicians. At some point – while I was looking at the catalogue of the German label Enja – I found Rebecca. Instantly she captured my attention.
Over the next several days I listened to everything I could find online from her music projects and CDs.
An instinct was there from the beginning; a feeling that Rebecca would fit perfectly in a duo. I didn’t know anything about her personality, so I watched some of her online video interviews. Although I didn’t understand a word because it was in German, I got an idea of her mentality. Within the next couple of weeks, I wrote her an introductory email with my personal info and music, and she responded positively.
In December of 2018 we performed our first concert in Athens and four months later we recorded the CD “Dual Nature” live. By our first rehearsal in my house, I was sure about our chemistry.
What were some of the challenges of this project?
There were a few, due to our different cultural backgrounds. For me it was the first time I played with bass clarinet. So, there were some corrections in the sheet music and a search for instrument roles in improvisation and composition parts.
We had little time to prepare (if I remember correctly it was two rehearsals plus the concert) and things happened without too much explanation.
Rebecca was very active, adaptive and versatile in every part of the process and that helped me a lot. It was easy to work and play with her. She is also a great performer and energetic on stage.
The inconvenience of working on a completely new project with someone from another country who you don’t know personally made a lot of room for instinct.
What do you like about your label?
First of all, the director of Ekfrassis Productions was my first guitar teacher Costas Eliades. I’ve known him since I was a child and we still meet for coffee even without a reason, just to see each other and talk. He’s a great teacher, composer and conductor. The label has done great recordings of contemporary music over the years.
I trust his opinion and perspective, and get a lot of support from him and the label.
What are your plans for getting this music out to audiences with the current lockdown?
Fortunately, there were some great reviews and presentations from international websites and e-magazines (Jazzviews, Jazzcorner, All About Jazz and DownBeat Magazine, to name a few). This exposure drove the audience’s attention to our work and many people have listened and bought our album and still do so.
I was informed very recently that “Dual Nature” is on a lot of FM radio stations in the US. I am glad and grateful!
Where are you based?
I am based in Athens, the capital of Greece. The jazz scene here is very interesting and produces a great deal of new groups with a variety of original music.
We are in the middle of East and West, and through the different sounds, musicians have numerous aesthetic possibilities and the freedom to experiment and search for their personal voice. Sadly, there is a very small number of venues to support this kind of music.
What are your goals for the music in 2021?
This is a very difficult time for everyone, especially for artists. My great hope is to leave this situation behind us as soon as possible and get back to our normal everyday life – whatever the “new normal” will be like.
Although I had some arrangements for performances with Rebecca and my solo work in festivals in Europe and elsewhere, everything was cancelled for 2020.
For 2021 there is some positive news about a small number of concerts but we have to wait and see because most of the festivals and venues are in great difficulty at the moment.
Fortunately, I have a few projects in progress. I’ve recorded a new CD with my trio (guitar, piano and drums) and there are plans for releasing it in March or April 2021. I’m also composing for my solo eight-string guitar project and writing music for a theatrical play for summer performances. It’s a lot of work but it gives me joy and doesn’t leave a lot of space to think about the current situation.
I try to be motivated by my work and focus on it.
I want to thank you for these interesting questions and for the chance to meet you even from a distance. I wish for all of us to be safe, calm and patient. Life will make its comeback!
For more information visit http://www.giorgostabakis.com.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artists.
(c) 2021 Debbie Burke