Vasilis Xenopoulos and Paul Edis began playing together 20 years ago when both relocated to West London to study. This year they followed up on their 2016 debut together with a release called ‘Feels Like Home’ (Ubuntu Music).

With a history spanning Greece, the USA, and the UK, it’s a musical reflection of the paths and relationships their lives in music have led them on.

They both join us for the musician’s playlist feature, with a selection of 10 songs which have informed and inspired them and their latest session together.

You can check out our review of the album here, or get it via Bandcamp

Vasilis Xenopoulos

1) Soul sister by Dexter Gordon

Album: Dexter Calling


I first came across with the music of Dexter Gordon at the age of 14 and soon became my main influence on tenor for many years to come. This particular recording is up there with some of the best jazz recorded in the 1960’s.

The track Soul Sister starts with a gospel type of waltz on the before the band switches to a very slow hard swinging beat for the solos which I personally consider to be on of the hardest tempos to play jazz. For jazz geeks like myself the rhythm section behind Dexter on this album is the same as the legendary John Coltrane’s “Blue Train”

2) Rhythm-A-Ning by Thelonious Monk

Album: Thelonious in Action, Live at The Five Spot

 

This recording is under Monk’s name originally. Johnny Griffin is probably at some of his very best periods in his career and to my ears he absolutely steals the show. His solo on Rhythm A Ning is one of the most breathtaking tenor playing, full of energy and ideas. Monk gives up on comping after a certain point, allowing Griffin to go even more adventurous with double time lines and motif development.

3) Russian Lullaby by John Coltrane

Album: Soultrane


This is a classic Coltrane recording that most jazz enthusiasts remember mainly because of the classic tracks Good Bait and Theme For Ernie. However, to me one of the most impressive tracks in that album is the final track entitled Russian Lullaby.

It starts with a trademark rubato piano intro by Red Garland and then enters a frenzy super fast swing tempo that not many players were able to improvise on, especially back then in 1958.

At the very end of the track, the band stops and Coltrane takes a double time cadenza. Have a listen to the very first part of that cadenza where Coltrane plays a very long phrase with double time lines, all in one breath, which is pretty remarkable!

 

4) Y Todavia La Quiero by Joe Henderson

Album: Relaxin’ at Camarillo


Joe Henderson was one of the most celebrated jazz saxophonist ever with a large number of recordings as band leader and sideman.
This recording is from 1979 and to some extent is different to his classic Blue Note albums from the 1960s.

This particular tune It’s all based on a bass riff and a modal melody on top. Henderson starts very melodic on his solo with but as his improvisation progress he starts being more adventurous with the note choices showing us a more aggressive and powerful side of his tenor saxophone.

5) Episode from a Village by Ralph Moore

Album: Images

This is one of my favourite albums of all times, a perfect example of how I think a post contemporary hard-bop band should sound like. Ralph Moore gets an incredible rich tone on his tenor and manages to sound contemporary and traditional at the same time.

This track is an original composition by pianist James Williams and on this version is presented with an afro-cuban groove and features some very impressive soloing by Ralph Moore on tenor, Terence Blanchard on trumpet and Benny Green on piano.

Paul Edis

6) Have You Met Miss Jones by Ray Brown Trio

Album: Live From New York to Tokyo

My first encounter with the Ray Brown Trio was with an album introduced to me by Vasilis called ‘Live at Scullers’ that could easily have made this list, especially because it in turn alerted me to the incredible piano playing of Benny Green (more on him later).

I found this double album in a record shop in Harrogate whilst on holiday, and went on to listen to it over, and over, and over again. The main highlight of the album for me (aside from just how much fun it is, and how much fun it sounds like the band and audience are having) was the blues-infused playing of Gene Harris.

Everything he plays is fizzing with energy! If you want to hear him really do his thing, then the version of Summertime from the same recording is a masterclass.

7) Testifyin’ by Benny Green Trio

Album: Carl’s Blue

Having first heard Benny Green playing with Ray Brown, I discovered this live album a while later with his own trio – including Christian McBride (double bass) and Carl Allen (drums). It’s outrageously joyful, Green’s playing is so technically accomplished but most importantly, he has an immaculate sense of time.

His lines are not only logical and full of inventive ideas, but it’s the way he, McBride and Allen play together that really makes me want to listen to this again and again. I had the immense pleasure of seeing Benny Green perform live in New York in 2015 and he was generous enough to talk to me after the gig, even taking the time to listen to some of my music.

8) Blame it on my Youth  by Brad Mehldau Trio

Album: Art of the Trio

Mehldau’s playing is (justifiably) hugely influential. He is someone who seems to be able to do almost anything at the keyboard.

What really captured my attention in this recording was the amount of space he leaves and the way he places each note and each phrase so carefully – it’s as though he coaxes each beautiful idea from the keyboard. He has a seriously advanced harmonic language too in his choice of notes, which really opened up my ears to some new sounds after hearing this album and changed my approach to playing.

9) Fungii Mamma by Kenny Barron

Album: Lemuria Seascape 

I’ve returned to this recording so many times over the years. It was hugely influential on my development as a jazz musician, in particular the track ‘Fungii Mamma’ which I first played for a drummer friend’s GCSE performance.

I suspect our version probably sounded fairly rubbish given that we were 16(!), but we were both inspired to emulate the sounds we’d heard on the album. From the opening tom-tom rolls, the groove Ben Riley plays is so hypnotic.

Barron has an amazing feel and many of his melodic lines have become part of my jazz vocabulary ever since listening to this track as a teenager. This recording was also sampled by Basement Jaxx for their track ‘Do Your Thing’, which in turn meant, to my huge surprise, that Barron’s introductory chordal hook has been audible at various parties and gatherings ever since!

10) Everything Happens To Me by Thelonious Monk

Album: Solo Monk

It took me a while to get use to the sound of Monk. His style is so unconventional, it’s natural to find it challenging at first, but it is worth sticking it out until it makes sense!

There’s an amazing amount of inventiveness with Monk – he has such a distinctive voice that it could only be him. His playing is full of tragic wit, unearthing his very own ‘ugly beauty’, whilst his contribution as a composer to the jazz cannon is immense.

Not because of the number of tunes he wrote, but because of their individuality – Monk is a genre in himself. In this recording he takes a jazz standard he didn’t write, he deconstructs it and puts it back together in such a way that it sounds like he composed it.

Thanks to Paul and Edis for taking part! 

Don’t forget to check out their latest release – and see how many of these influences you can hear for yourself – right here…