Relishing the magic of the sax

For years now, saxophonist Takis Paterelis has pursued a successful career on the local jazz circuit, opting for a low profile and focusing on his work. Kathimerini recently caught up with the musician during a rehearsal at the downtown Guru club, where he frequently performs. Unlike most of his peers, Paterelis, who was born in 1965, never became absorbed in rock music. «I never went through the ‘rock phase,’ as they say. I began with classical music, on the piano. My father was a musician. He played the trumpet and got me hooked on music from an early age,» said Paterelis. «At some point, when I was about 16, I listened to some of the jazz records my father had at home and something just happened there, so I decided to get involved with jazz.» One of the details that drew Paterelis to jazz was the sound of the saxophone. «That’s how I switched from the piano to the saxophone,» said Paterelis, who, nevertheless, did complete his classical piano studies. «From the age of 16, I essentially began to learn how to play the saxophone by myself. About 10 years later, I did a jazz composition and orchestration course at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.» Paterelis returned from Boston in 1992 and began working as a professional musician in fields beyond jazz, with collaborations that included some of the country’s better-known singers, among them Haris Alexiou, Alkistis Protopsalti and Antonis Vardis, as well as the longtime composer Yiannis Markopoulos. «It’s inevitable if you want to make a living from music. It helps financially and gives me the opportunity to work on my jazz,» said Paterelis, who also gets a financial boost from teaching at the Philippos Nakas Conservatory, where he says, he has cut back on hours. Commenting on the local jazz circuit, Paterelis said there were phases once he returned from the USA when he felt that Greek jazz had potential. «But then it would all slacken again,» he contended. «The main problem is that there aren’t enough venues for this kind of music. Otherwise, the number of musicians that have become involved with the style have increased in recent years. And they’re very talented.» Besides the playing, Paterelis has also stood out for his compositions. His influences, he said, stretch beyond jazz. «I really like classical Arabic music. Jazz possesses a quality that enables it to lift elements from various musical styles and transform them into its own,» said Paterelis. A recent notable initiative by the Greek jazz musician was his role in helping to establish a big band at the Guru club. «It didn’t have the numbers of a conventional big band. There were nine members – five on brass, as well as a piano, guitar, percussion and bass. I hope that a recording we did at the Guru club will soon be released. It was the first time such an initiative has been taken in Greece,» said Paterelis. He also has a solo album ready for release but when talking about it, he looked a little perplexed. «Sometimes, I’m troubled by the thought of to whom I’m directing my music here in Greece. It’s a complicated matter that worries all of us jazz players here,» said Paterelis. «There’s a [musical] cheapness that’s been projected a lot, and it seems to be on the rise. But he have no other option than to do what we love.»

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