Christopher Bakriges Trio
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Christopher Bakriges Trio

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Christopher Bakriges lived in Detroit for the first twenty years of his life. His experiences in the Motor City fed his desire to artistically communicate with diverse constituencies. “I operated on multiple levels culturally. We lived for a time a stone’s throw from the original Motown Studios. I crossed many borders, culturally, racially, and socially, to live and perform. It showed me that not only Detroit matters everywhere but that I carry my Detroit-ness within me wherever I go.”

Nearly all the big musical legends played Detroit. The best in the universe, whether in a major auditorium or a chittlin’ circuit bar passed through like they were gunslingers. “It was truly a conservatory of the streets,” Bakriges remembers. His first performing and recording opportunities were in that city. Artists like Sun Ra and David Murray alum Jaribu Shahid, Tanni Tabbal, and Motown saxophonist Kasuku Mafie [Norris Patterson] were nothing but encouraging.

His path to music as a career, however, was not a direct one. Both Bakriges’ aunt and uncle were professional opera singers. His father was determined that his Greek American son studied law instead of music, even though he was in elite artistic class by the time he graduated Finney high school. The family feared he would struggle to make a living as a musician. “I earned degrees in the liberal arts at the University of Detroit (now Detroit Mercy). I don’t regret a moment of it. But my passion for music outweighed most anything else,” he recalls. “So I earned two other degrees in musicology and ethnomusicology at Wesleyan in Connecticut and York in Toronto. I let everything wash over me. Ethnomusicology allowed me to understand music in culture and music as culture – and my work with Anthony Braxton, Alvin Lucier, James Tenney, Nadi Qamar, Jimmy Giuffre, Billy Taylor, Jaki Byard, Fred Simmons, and Oscar Peterson allowed me to cut across the fertile ground of contemporary world music, creative improvisation, and nearly the entire spectrum of jazz history.”

Not long after returning to the U.S. from Canada he began lecturing at Elms College Massachusetts and averaged playing out 5 nights a week in at least three different states. For the last ten years he's performed 170 shows a year and has played on two dozen albums. “It’s been a wonderful and exhausting time,” he says. But surprisingly, and despite only modest commercial success, Bakriges has begun to feel more artistic freedom in both his academic role and his performance schedule. His recent headline appearances include the Institute on Pedagogies of World Music Theories at the University of Colorado in Boulder, both the Hartford and New Haven International Jazz Festival in Connecticut, New York’s storied University Of The Streets and the Museum of Natural History, artist Fran Bull’s Gallery In The Field in Vermont, the Ochre Point Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, as well as the International Society of Improvised Music at the Lamont School of Music, University of Denver in Colorado. Bakriges was also a regular at Pink’s Alley in Manchester, Vermont until its closing late last year, performing there with the late Stax/Truth recording artist Sandra Wright. Chris co-leads the Oikos Ensemble, a Cleveland-based world jazz group that traverses ethnic, jazz, and chamber music. Oikos concertizes mostly in churches, seminaries, and spiritual centers around the U.S. “I love performing the events that are interdisciplinary, the festivals that look right across the spectrum of arts and culture,” he says. “I’m not alone in these endeavors. There are a lot of role models like Paul Winter, Pauline Oliveros, Charles Lloyd, Billy Harper, Jay Hoggard, David Darling, Karl Berger, and members of the group Oregon. These are people who are not only great musicians but who also serve as missionaries for what music can do for people’s lives,” says Bakriges.

Looking for the proper opportunities in which to present this work is a consistent theme for Bakriges, now living in Vermont and commuting regularly around the U.S. His music needs to be more broadly discovered. As he puts it, “I want my music to help people. I figure that if I approach life at a hundred percent, the windows of opportunity always arise.” - self-published


Chris Bakriges grew up in Detroit, two doors down from the original Motown Studios. "Music was literally in the air and I was exposed to the world of music that existed in that community, from Mediterranean to avant-garde. In fact, my first teacher outside of classical music was Earl Van Dyke, one of Motown's storied Funk Brothers." Drawn to jazz and to the piano by age ten and I started playing in the Detroit clubs by my early twenties. Surprisingly, Chris didn't start to think about the possibility of pursuing a life in music until he was married. "Jenny, a fiber artist, told me that I shouldn't have any regrets, and that became my mantra."

Studies with Nadi Qamar, a.k.a. Spaulding Givens on Charles Mingus's first sides as a leader, introduced Chris to the repertoire of Mal Waldron, McCoy Tyner, Randy Weston, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Cecil Taylor. He continued studies with Dr. Billy Taylor, Harold Danko, Jaki Bayard, and Jimmy Giuffre, a neighbor of his while living in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Jimmy took me to sit in with his group when he taught at New England Conservatory because he knew that I couldn't afford the tuition. A scholarship to Wesleyan University allowed him to work Anthony Braxton, becoming the genius award winner's musical copyist for two years while performing in both his small group and double orchestra. However, it was at York University in Toronto where he obtained his doctorate in ethnomusicology and began working with Oscar Peterson. "I literally had lessons from the entire gamut of jazz history that has resulted in a particular depth in playing and an appreciation for the music."

Chris' music experiences was more than an academic exercise. His resume includes leading his own groups since the early 1990s and performing in countries like India, Pakistan, China, France, and the United Kingdom. Chris has gotten to play with artists as diverse as Bobby McFerrin, David Darling, Cicci Santucci, Jay Hoggard, Leonard "Doc" Gibbs, Henry Franklin, Beldon Bullock, the Reese Project, Sandra Wright and Sheila Jordan.

Chris has released eight recordings as a leader and appears on a Reese Project recording as well as both Oikos Ensemble albums. His newest record is "Transculturation" and features performances with eighteen musicians from around the world. - self-published


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