Born on the Greek island of Zakynthos and now based in New-York city, Petros Klampanis is a double-bass player and composer whose music is both influenced by the Mediterranean and Balkan folk traditions of his native country and by the contemporary American jazz scene. Since relocating to New York in 2008, the musician has collaborated with American saxophone player Greg Osby, French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc or Israeli-born saxophonist Oded Tzur among many others. Following on from Contextual (2011) and Minor Dispute (2015), Chroma is Petros Klampanis’ third album as a leader and was released on 10 March 2017 last of Motéma Music.

Petros Klampanis - Chroma (2017)
Petros Klampanis – Chroma (2017)

The Greek word for colour, “Chroma” takes on many nuances in the context of Petros Klampanis’ music. Ever since his solo début in 2011, the musician has complemented the sound of his double bass with electric guitar, piano, percussion and a string quartet. Chroma features long-time collaborator Shai Maestro on piano, Gilad Hekselman on guitar, John Hadfield on drums and Keita Ogawa on percussions. And broadening his musical palette significantly, the new album features an 8 piece string quartet, enhancing the chamber jazz feel of his previous recordings to a near symphonic level.

The augmented line-up, combined with Petros Klampanis’ wordless vocals on “Shadows” for instance add not only to the overall texture of the composition but also generate a much more emotional and intense experience. Many of the songs on Chroma reflect on a period of personal turmoil and self-examination (“Tough Decisions (are always dark green”)) for the musician.

At the same time, as an immigrant living in the United States in 2017, Petros Klampanis empathises with the situation of migrants in general and refugees in various parts of the world, all the more so when his debt-laden native country has found itself on the frontline of the Syrian and Middle-Eastern refugee crisis in recent years.

Such personal, political and economic turbulences had a significant impact on the genesis of the album.

We need to look inside and see what is really important for us and for the world around us. We happen to live during a strange time for humanity. Musicians and artists in general have historically been the ‘outsiders’ in most societies, and our time makes no exception. But art carries qualities that are essential for our development, individually and socially. We need more ‘color’ in our life: more love, more compassion, respect, and imagination.

The ensemble playing on the album is wonderfully seamless, combining written and arranged parts for strings with improvised sections for all solo instruments. The near 10mn long centrepiece of the album “Cosmic Patience” – a Gilad Hekselman composition – features consecutive choruses on double bass and guitar while the strings retain their harmonic presence. The percussion-driven “Shades of Magenta” also sees the sting section adopt a more rhythmic role.

In addition to his solo work, Petros Klampanis has also collaborated extensively with Greek-born and New-York based Magda Giannikou’s Banda Magda, an international Jazz/World/Fusion group closely associated with American groundbreaking collective Snarky Puppy.

A quintessential live band, Snarky Puppy have recorded most of their albums live in front of a studio audience, and so have musicians from the collective who have launched their own solo careers like Magda Giannikou, keyboard player Bill Laurence or guitarist Chris McQueen. One common thread between all the above musicians is the visual element of the music – most recording sessions were captured by the camera of independent director and cinematographer Andy LaViolette.

Adopting a similar style and intensifying the synesthetic/”chromesthetic” experience of Chroma in the process, the album was recorded live before an intimate audience at New York’s Onassis Cultural Centre in front of Andy LaViolette’s cameras.