Deep Thoughts: Petros Klampanis on Mastering Bass

Petros Klampanis performs with his trio on Tuesday, January 14, at Dazzle.
Petros Klampanis performs with his trio on Tuesday, January 14, at Dazzle. Giorgos Lizardos

Petros Klampanis had a decade of classical piano training under his belt when he went to see a pop group in his home town on the Greek island of Zakynthos. The fifteen-year-old Klampanis, now 38, was floored by the Athens-based band’s electric bassist Yiotis Kiourtsoglou’s use of slapping and harmonizer effects.

“He basically opened a new world of music,” Klampanis says. "And it was at the right moment. I had kind of developed my listening skills, and I knew stuff about harmony. I’d improvise a little bit on the piano, but he was a spark for me to really go for it.”

Klampanis, who plays at Dazzle on Tuesday, January 14 with his trio that includes pianist Kristjan Randalu and percussionist Keita Ogawa, then started studying on the electric bass, inspired by players like the great Jaco Pastorius. While Klampanis gravitated more toward the fusion of Weather Report and Tribal Tech at first, while studying in Athens in his twenties, he began steeping himself in the music of John Coltrane and Dexter Gordon.

“Slowly, my love of electric bass kind of transformed to my love of double bass,” he says.

Klampanis says that when he first started playing double bass, he approached it as he did the electric bass — which he now says was a mistake. It took him a while to approach the acoustic bass with a different aesthetic.

“Like really go deeper with the sounds,” he says. “It’s more of a sound thing. It took me a while to become an actual double bass player. I still love both electric and acoustic for their own beauty.”

Klampanis thinks many bass players are either very lyrical or very groove-oriented, and he tries to do both things.

“I feel that the bass is such a versatile instrument,” he says. "It can do both things quite brilliantly. You can really keep the groove and be a foundation of the band, but at the same time, it’s a very singing instrument. It’s like a tenor/baritone kind of sound.”

Each of his four solo albums shows just how versatile and masterful the bassist is. While he says his previous three albums included bigger ensembles, on his most recent effort, Irrationalities, Klampanis decided to go back to the basics with a trio, which would be easier to tour with.

“It allows you to also discover more places in improvisation,” he says. “Musically, it’s quite different in the first level, but it’s kind of the same for me. It’s a lot about attention to details and orchestration and playing with different arrangements.”

With Irrationalities and playing in the trio format, Klampanis says his role has expanded as a bassist.

“I play more melodies,” he says. “I definitely have more space to cover. And that’s a beautiful thing. ... In an ensemble, you kind of have to keep it down in order to provide the foundation for bands to groove and for soloists to create the solo or the strings to tell their musical story. But in this context, I have a lot more freedom to interplay with the other musicians and solo more. The bass has a lot more oxygen to breathe.”

These days, Klampanis splits his time between New York City (where he first moved to in 2008 to study music at Queens College with players like Michael Mossman, Antonio Hart and Paul Bollenbeck) and Athens, making ten to fifteen trips between the cities a year. Living in the vastly different cities has soaked into his compositions well, as he loves the dynamic between the two cultures and combining the two musical worlds.

“Growing up in Greece was such a different experience than living in the States,” he says. “This difference in mentality and culture inventively affects the music. The music from Greece and the Mediterranean is completely different. It represents different emotions and different ideas around the music than the music that’s been created in the States. That’s a very interesting thing for me, like being able to experience cultures musically. For me, it’s like my main source of inspiration.”

Petros Klampanis Trio plays at 7 p.m. Tuesday, January 14, at Dazzle, 1512 Curtis Street. Tickets are $15-$25 and available at Dazzle's website.

Listen to Petros Klampanis and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.
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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon