Interview with jazz guitarist Apostolos Leventopoulos. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?
Apostolos Leventopoulos: – I grew up at a small city near Olympus mountain in Greece. Took piano lessons as a kid, but I have always loved guitar. My initial influences were Rock and Metal, but later through guitar playing I got into Jazz, Blues, Flamenco, anything with guitar in it. I really fell in love with guitar since the first day I got one, and after spending a few years studying it and practicing all day long, also starting to play live, I decided to pursue it as a profession. My motives were to have lots of time to practice and learn, and to play music with good players. At some point I went to the US and studied at Berklee, and have been a full time musician ever since.
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JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
AL: – I think the important part of developing your sound happens in your head, as the music you listen to forms the sounds you try to achieve. Also playing live teaches you a lot about what you like and what works or not for your playing. I play lots of different styles of music (have worked live with most contemporary styles), so I have a lot of different instruments, amps, pedals and other gear. I prefer vintage gear and the brands you hear on the classic records, so these days I mostly have classic stuff, although I have some boutique gear too (mostly pedals). I still work a lot on sound every day, practicing simple stuff but working on making it sound as good as possible.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
AL: – I practice some technique every day (acoustic, scales, arpeggios, chord scales, improvisation over changes), trying to combine it with musical ideas. I always practice with time, being it a metronome, drum tracks or CDs. I have a list of short and long term goals that I am always working on, and apply them on standards. Then it is whatever project is current.
It is important to always strive to be as musical as possible with whatever you might be working on. Concentrated practice works better for me than casual longer one.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?
AL: – I have become more focused I think. I love guitar so much, you pick up the archtop guitar and it is a world of music. Then the acoustic, electric is the same. Then there is classical, I also play some piano and bass. At some point I realized it is impossible to find time for everything and these days my listening and practicing is mostly jazz and acoustic music. But I also love the electric guitar, mostly as a rhythm instrument in bands, and the nylon string in brazilian music.
My love for playing and sharing music with people has been the driving force behind it all. I still enjoy playing live, no matter if it is a big festival or a bar with a handful or people.
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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
AL: – Music has some of both. I think the intellectual and physical part of it just serve as a means to an end, a way to reach and serve the deeper part of it, which is the spiritual part. You practice all your life, to serve this thing that is very deep, that brings people together. To me real music starts where the self disappears, and musicians and audience become one. It is a poem about life that we collectively sing. The best manifestation of this is religious music, but It happens with all styles of music. I used to sometimes play in a small baptist church while in the US, I’ll never forget the beauty of it. To me music and dance, being abstract and open as they are, are the most beautiful of art forms.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
AL: – Sometimes music is art, sometimes it is entertainment. Sometimes it is the focus, sometimes the background. I like all of it. As a musician there is always a challenge to be met, you can always make the music more real, the playing better, the moment more noteworthy. But in live music, musicians and audience play together, the music can’t really happen if both of them aren’t really present. So the musician-audience relationship is a very real thing to me, and something I am very aware of when playing.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
AL: – Music education will do that. If kids are introduced to the beauty of music, and the joy of playing an instrument, they are going to enjoy good music, and jazz is such. I don’t think the age of the music is a detrimental factor, as most music half a century back was better than music today! So this and also seeing the music live makes a difference.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
AL: – We each find a way in life to pursue whatever we decide is worth pursuing. It is what is inside us that determines our path. I think people should live in a free, minimalist way, and just try to follow their heart, be simple and light, loving, sharing and supportive with each other. It is great to lose –or find- yourself in music.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
AL: – I would like music to be less associated with shows and flash, image, etc, and more about simply playing and enjoying music. Often in big shows I find myself wishing I could just hear this great band simply play music without all the extra hassle.
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JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
AL: – Mostly classic jazz from the fifties and early sixties. I can listen to that music for ever. Outside Jazz, I love Gospel, Acoustic guitar music, Flamenco, R&B, Soul, Blues, all black American music really, some classical.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
AL: – Probably the US in the 50s, to see all that great music that was being played at the time!
JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…
AL: – Yes, I enjoyed the interview. Since you talk with many musicians, are there any common traits you see in them?
JBN: – Yes and No!
Interview by Simon Sarg
Note: https://jazzbluesnews.com/2023/03/19/useu-jazz-blues-association-festivals/ You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/useujba/