Excitement was my first reaction to the hearing of Teranga Beat’s news about the release of the 1st compilation of Kyriakos Sfetsas’ Greek Fusion Orchestra, with unreleased material. The release is about part of 1977 recordings, presenting for the first time Sfetsas’s unique approach to greek tradition, incorporated into a jazz composition.
Here’s a brief history around Sfetsas and the conception of GFO.
Kyriakos Sfetsas was born in Amfilochia, at the crossroad of north and south or with a restless imagination, as he teasingly comments, from east to west. That’s the place he first got in touch with Greek traditional music, by wandering clarinet players, something very common of that particular era.
However, he grew up in Lefkada where he studied classical music from an early age, in the local conservatory. At the same time, he further exposed to traditional music, again through the clarinet, as it is the main instrument of folk music in that region. From an early age, he played with gypsy orchestras at local festivals, an experience that inspired him to create the Greek Fusion Orchestra, after his return from Paris in 1975.
Athens was the ideal place to take place something like this and he was backed by top-notch musicians of that time.
The significance of these two comps of Greek Fusion Orchestra lies in the fact that both of them have to do with Greek jazz. And by Greek jazz, I mean the intelligent convergent of Greek traditional music, incorporated into the contemporary jazz compositions of Sfetsas.
That way he accomplished his ambition, something he could not do in Paris, as it was impossible to find musicians trained in both musical cultures…
Greek Fusion Orchestra consisted of:
Manthos Halkias (pop clarinet, alto saxophone), George Manikas (flute and tenor saxophone), Nikos Tatsis (electric guitar and electric lute), Giannis Terezakis (piano and keyboards), George Theodorides (acoustic and electric bass) and Dimitris Marinakis on drums and percussions.
That was the original line-up, which has been updated with more members, for the sake of “No borders” recordings.
Partner in music madness and co-radio producer, Gus Ar, got me the second compilation, during our summer vacation and actually, there’s a nice story behind that!
There it goes:
“We’re in the middle of the summer and our rendezvous was in a typical spot of our hometown. We have a lot to talk about, regarding music, politics and other topics, over some cool and refreshing cocktails.
Gus was strolling in the city center when he met his sister -and a friend of hers- for a coffee.
The copy of Sfetsas lays in the table corner waiting for me when the friend of Gus’s sister saw it and commented:
-Ah, my uncle…
At first, Gus let that comment pass but after a while, the girlfriend of this guy came over and she acted the same way, by commenting:
-Ah, your uncle!
After that, they started to explain how they relate to Mr. Sfetsas and that’s a great confirmation of how small our world is, don’t you think?
Ok, let’s go back to the second compilation now, shall we?
It’s at the similar pace of the first one, however, the significant difference here, is that it gives even more room to experimentation.
Jazz improvisation along with the experimental character of the compositions, reveals another aspect of Sfetsas genius, a darker yet more interested one, at least to me.
I mean, yes, we have the Greek traditional elements within the jazz compositional shell. Something that is also obvious in “No Borders” record of Sfetsas. Despite that, the tracks give the feeling of something more personal and esoteric. The widow is a typical example of that.
So, if you’re looking for an alternative trip to Greek jazz, the Greek Fusion Orchestra is your best option. Teranga Beat did a stunning work here, once again!