Apr 01, 2017 l By Ablx Staff
Gypsy Jazz Returns!
Influenced by jazz guitar legends Django Reinhardt and John McLaughlin, Greece-born (now Canada-based) guitarist Strat Andriotis has released his latest CD entitled Less Off Patient, the follow up to Strat’s critically acclaimed 2015 CD, Liars Incorporated. Less Off Patient features eleven original tracks of instrumental guitar music, blending elements of Gypsy jazz and classical music. Strat is joined by Adrianna Lee (violin) and Jeff Vidov (piano).
There is definitely a European flavor here. Bouncing and inspiring, these relatively short pieces are a treat; acoustic, effects-free performances that harken back to a simpler time. The purity of tones and strength of the musicianship makes for repeated listening, and you’ll likely notice something remarkable with each new spin. The songwriting is top-notch, and the range of moods (and even the order of the songs) makes for a finely-crafted presentation.
Fans of the aforementioned guitarists, as well as John Jorgenson, Bireli Lagrene, and Stephane Grappelli will find much to like here. It would be a bit unfair to claim that this is just a modern take on time-honored traditional styles, since the concept and delivery seems so personal to these players. Each of the three musicians exhibit great facility and tastefulness throughout. There’s no bombastic overplaying to be found, yet their skill is clearly on display, in service of the harmony and melody at hand.
A great disc to chill out with while driving or to put on at your next dinner party, Less Off Patient is a balanced and well-recorded collection. Kudos to Strat for making music of this class and virtuosity, and for making it available for the rest of us.
The “Less Off Patient” interview
mwe3: Less Off Patient is a great follow up CD to Liars Incorporated. Being that both albums feature your guitar backed up by Jeff Vidov on piano and Adrianna Lee on violin, how are the two albums different as far as your approach to composing, performance and recording?
Strat Andriotis: I gave Adrianna more of a featured role, writing her a lot more solos and passages. Because we had all played a few dates together, I think Less Off Patient has more of a freedom to it. Jeff’s piano playing once again is terrific and soul-inspiring. This album came together rather quickly because of our familiarity from playing with each other.
mwe3: Liars Incorporated took five years to make. Was it somewhat easier this time around for Less Off Patient as you’re working with the same crew of musicians and the same producer? Was the chemistry the same this time around?
Strat Andriotis: Absolutely. Everybody involved with Less Off Patient had a much easier guide to the music, largely in part because of our previous work together.
mwe3: On Less Off Patient, did you write all the music out by hand or do you use a computer program? Most of the melodic lines on Less Off Patient are played by all the instruments simultaneously which is quite unique these days! As there’s not too many solos, clearly the music is the main vehicle for the sonic ideas!
Strat Andriotis: For writing the music I use a computer program, which makes it easier. In most cases I will start to write the songs on the guitar first but after a few times I will start with a piano first approach. I have to say there are a lot more solos for guitar and violin than on Liars Incorporated. Sometimes two guitar solos in one song.
mwe3: You say John McLaughlin is your main influence on the guitar. Is the Django connection valid on Less Off Patient and why do you think Gypsy Jazz has remained so popular in the music world?
Strat Andriotis: The funny thing is I first heard John McLaughlin before Django, when I was a kid. I was introduced to Django’s music a few years later. I guess from listening to McLaughlin, whose biggest guitar influence was Django, I soaked up some of the guitar work. I guess you can hear the influence of Django especially when I play acoustic guitar. When you think about Django’s music, it has been around close to a hundred years and his playing stands the test of time, just ask any guitar player.
mwe3: Were the Less Off Patient recording sessions done the same way as Liars Incorporated in that you say that the piano was recorded first, followed by guitar and then violin? How did that approach translate into the finished Less Off Patient recording? The Less Off Patient recording sound is so perfect that it really seems like you’re recording with the trio together at the same time! Was Bob Doidge in the room with you when all the artists were recording their parts?
Strat Andriotis: The same approach was used on Less Off Patient as on Liars Incorporated. The song “Duet” was done live off the floor with Adrianna and I. Bob was at all the sessions we recorded. His mic-ing technique is amazing. The violin, piano and guitar have such a rich texture to them.
mwe3: Bob Doidge recorded some cello on Liars Incorporated so did Bob add in any parts this time and can you tell us something about Bob’s overall contributions to Less Off Patient and how about Amy King’s mastering of the album? The mastering sounds very full and bright, nothing gets buried in the mix and there’s not too much echo. Hence my Django comparison!
Strat Andriotis: Bob did not play on this record. His ear is truly amazing and he helped with some decisions on the outcome of the record. I find sometimes I get too caught up in making sure everything is perfect sounding that I might lose some moments that are happy accidents. Bob is good at recognizing those moments. I asked Amy to master the record a little hotter than usual and the added bass and treble sounds great. Very intimate.
mwe3: You seem to have an inclination towards using controversial cover art on your albums! You mentioned how you rushed a friend to the hospital and saw all the patients, all the sick and destitute ones so that was one reason why you named the album Less Off Patient. Do you think you might scare some more conservative fans away with the CD cover art? I guess it’s, if that’s the case, that’s their loss.
Strat Andriotis: I love the artwork on both Less Off Patient and Liars. I feel the artwork sets up the music that accompanies it. It is truly different than most instrumental records you might see and also listen to. The music, I feel, is as original as its cover and that means the world to me. Showing the world some injustices at the same time puts a smile on my face.
mwe3: You say you practice arpeggios and scales to stay in shape. What are your favorite scales and arpeggios and chord progressions to practice and how else did you stay in shape to prepare for the Less Off Patient sessions? When did you learn to read and write music and how does that impact both your guitar playing, your practicing and your compositional approach to writing music?
Strat Andriotis: I pretty well use major and minor scales with some diminished scales, diminished arpeggios and some passing tones for color. I started to read music when I was eleven years old and I started to write music a few years later. To me composition is the most important thing in creating songs. Solos always sound better when you have created a nice canvas.
mwe3: As far as getting the Less Off Patient CD better heard and listened to by the audiences, are you planning to target the jazz or classical music markets?
Strat Andriotis: I would like for both genres to be excited about Less Off Patient and also would be nice to see some rock music fans into it.
mwe3: Do you mind people mentioning your Greek heritage when describing your music? Do you think you’ve assimilated your Greek roots when it comes to writing music? You did mention that, even though you left Canada and you’ve lived in Canada since you were four, you did get some exposure to Greek music.
Strat Andriotis: I don’t think I play too much Greek influenced music. My dad would play some Greek music at home but not too much. I guess some might say when I am doing a solo it reminds them a little of a bouzouki player.
mwe3: On Liars Incorporated, you used the Godin 5th Avenue guitar and the 1956 Gibson ES 225. Are those the guitars you also recorded Less Off Patient with?
Strat Andriotis: For this record I used my 2014 Gibson SJ200 exclusively with the exception of a 1959 Gibson L-48 which I used for “Somewhere In Time My Love”. The L-48 belongs to one of my best friends, Neil Brown whose father was Freddy Brown. (To whom the record is dedicated – editor)
mwe3: Also what can you tell us about your finger-picking techniques? Do you use a pick?
mwe3: What’s been the reaction to your music in Canada? Is the Canada market open to your adventurous music or are you looking more to the US and beyond for exposure and airplay / reviews? Are you happy with the internet as many are complaining of infringement and even theft from not receiving royalties from all the downloading and sites like YouTube, etc?
Strat Andriotis: Canada has been very supportive to my music but the U.S. is a much bigger market with more avenues for airplay and touring. As far as internet downloads go, what can you do? I have received some royalties from YouTube but then again my music only attracts maybe 5 percent of music listeners.
mwe3: With Less Off Patient being released on CD internationally in September 2016, what can you say to music fans to open their ears to the great music on your amazing new album?
Strat Andriotis: I hope people will have a listen… Sometimes it takes a few spins to get into it. You might like what hear in the end.
STRAT ANDRIOTIS Liars Incorporated (Dekatria Records)
On his 2015 CD, entitled Liars Incorporated, guitarist Strat Andriotis redefines the role of the guitar in classical music. The twelve track Liars Incorporated CD clocks in at just under 28 minutes but it’s filled with some breathtaking guitar-centric, classically inspired music. Assisting Strat on this CD are some gifted accompanists—Jeff Vidov (piano) and Adrianna Lee (violin). Also on the CD are Katie Avery (violin) and album co-producer Bob Doidge (cello). Although Strat grew up in Canada listening to Cream and Jimi Hendrix, his love of jazz was ignited by the Miles Davis album In A Silent Way. His early solo albums featured nylon string guitar and piano with samples and, following another venture into the realm of hard rock, in early 2015 Strat returned to the neoclassical guitar style. Inspired by classical music greats such as Paganini, Satie and Beethoven, Strat recorded Liars Incorporated.
The results are truly striking and quite satisfying, both from a guitar perspective and a neoclassical music perspective. Strat’s fluid guitar work is in total sync with the other musicians and instead of stealing the spotlight with his mercurial guitar skills, he acts as the central cog in a well oiled musical machine. Perhaps the most fascinating thing is that Strat has written all the music here, so while it may sound like it was composed in another century, the music here is actually a well honed representation of 21st century neo-classical guitar-centric music at its finest. Another good thing is, how often you play this amazing CD, it never seems to wear out its welcome. Liars Incorporated is a masterful guitar statement from neoclassical / rock guitar maestro Strat Andriotis.
mwe3.com presents an interview with STRAT ANDRIOTIS
mwe3: Tell us how your new CD, Liars Incorporated came together. Even though you have a rock and jazz background as a guitarist, the CD is very classical in nature. Would you say your preference in music is rock, jazz or classical? Also how did you come up with the title? Seems like a rather jolting title compared to the mellifluous sounds inside.
Strat Andriotis: Liars took close to five years to finish. I was doing a lot of writing and wanted to involve piano and violin in the compositions. All the music was written out pretty well note for note. The piano was my first instrument and I have always loved writing music for it. I enjoy all types of music but if I had to pick I would say classical, jazz and rock in that order, but that could change next year! (lol) I wanted this album to have impact from the music to the graphics to the title. The handshake says it all, powerful yet simple and enigmatic.
mwe3: How do you balance and assimilate your guitar influences on the new CD? For example, I heard that in writing the music for Liars Incorporated you spent time listening to classical masters like Paganini, Satie and Beethoven but I also heard that you listen a lot of Django Reinhardt so one could say there’s kind of a mercurial guitar style and sound working here.
Strat Andriotis: The first thing I listen to or write is melody and how I can intertwine a passage with the other instruments. Solos are the last thing I work on for a composition. Now don’t get me wrong. I have practiced endless hours on guitar techniques, scales etc… But the beauty of writing a nice passage to solo later is very rewarding. John McLaughlin is probably my biggest guitar influence
mwe3: Who is playing with you on the Liars Incorporated CD and what were the recording sessions like? Also what was it like working with co-producer Bob Doidge and what did Bob bring to the album sessions?
Strat Andriotis: I have Jeff Vidov on piano and Adrianna Lee on violin. Katie Avery played violin on “Under”. These players did an amazing job. There are a lot of 16th note lines that Jeff and I played together. Adrianna and Katie played their parts beautifully. It helps that they are classically trained musicians and can read music very well. Because of our time schedule all the parts were played separately. Piano first, guitar second and violin last. Working with Bob at Grant Avenue Studio was fantastic. He has such a great ear for acoustic instruments. Most of the parts recorded were done as full takes and very little punch ins. I love Bob’s cello in “The Interlude”.
mwe3: How would you compare Liars Incorporated with your earlier recorded works that you made with Tom Carney? What other recordings have you made?
Strat Andriotis: Liars by far for me is the most rewarding. The music I wrote with Tom Carney was a glimpse of what was coming with Liars. Other recordings… I was in a rock project in 2006 that featured Roger Banks on drums, Jim Gilmour (Saga) on keyboards and Tony Levin on bass / chapman stick. The band was called XXX Sublimator.
mwe3: Can you tell us when you started playing guitar and about your early music studies? Have your practice routines changed over the years? How do you stay in shape musically as far as exercises and other practice routines go?
Strat Andriotis: My earliest influence on guitar was Clapton and Hendrix, then I heard John McLaughlin. I wanted to quit when I first heard him. He is amazing. I try to practice different things all the time and I always practice with a clean guitar sound. A lot of made up arpeggios/scales and chord progressions really.
mwe3: What was your first guitar and what guitars are featured on the Liars Incorporated CD and what other guitars do you feature on your other albums, live shows and in guitar guitar arsenal overall? It sounds like you’re playing an electric guitar on Liars Incorporated even though the music is classical. Is that a rightful assumption?
Strat Andriotis: I played two guitars on Liars. A Godin 5th Avenue archtop and a 1956 Gibson ES 225, on “Under” only. Right now I have a 1991 Gibson ES 175 and a 1980 Les Paul standard. The nylon string guitar is a Washburn. I only used that guitar for the Tom Carney records. When I play live no effects are used. Guitar straight to amp.
mwe3: In making the Liars Incorporated are you trying to simultaneously reach out more to the classical music fans and the rock fans interested in hearing some truly unique classically inspired guitar music? I was thinking the dynamics of rock but played as classical music?
Strat Andriotis: Yeah… You pretty well nailed there Robert. I would like some rock fans to crossover to this music. Even though it is classically based the music has some aggression to it.
mwe3: Tell us about your family moving from Greece to Canada and how the Greek musical influence impacts your guitar sound. Would you say there’s a Canadian influence in your music? How would you compare living in the two countries and where do you live now and what do you like best about it?
Strat Andriotis: For the most part I do not remember too much about Greece. I left there when I was around four years old. Growing up Canada in a Greek household was beneficial to me. Listened to some bouzouki music. The influence I got growing up in Canada was not from music but my interactions with people that have crossed my life. Most of Liars is written about them.
mwe3: What are you hoping music fans will come away with after listening to the Liars Incorporated CD? Also what other plans do you have for your music and guitar playing in 2015? Are there other musical directions you’d like to go in next and how about future musical goals and other future musical moves you are considering?
Strat Andriotis: Hopefully something fresh and inspiring. I think it is an album that will grow on you the more you listen. Trying to play some festivals this year I will not know till later in April if it is going to happen. Hoping to record some classical music but with more instruments involved maybe a small orchestra.