Made on a Mac

Lefteris Kordis’ cd album, released by Inner Circle Music (ICM), is an amalgamation of jazz, eastern Mediterranean folk, and chamber classical textures. The composer employs Aesop’s fables in their original ancient Greek language and incorporates western chamber instruments such as flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, 5-string violin, cello, jazz piano trio, two vocalists (Panayota Haloulakou and traditional Greek folk singer from Mt. Olympus Anna Goutzilika) and narrator/clarinetist Darryl Harper.

Through the centuries, these fables have served as stories that convey instruction, a moral or a sociopolitical message using fictitious characters. The format for delivering these fables was conceived as an evening spent next to the hearth with a grandfatherly figure, a captivating storyteller.

This project is dedicated in loving memory of Charlie Banacos (1946-2009)

“In these times, when we are in great need of fresh examples of intercultural dialogue, Lefteris Kordis’s music  is an abundant source of inspiration.”  ~ Danilo Pérez

“Kordis made his miracle! [...] He carries multi-genre and multi-cultural musical influences, all of which are essential to be a creative, complete and multi-dimensional musician.”

~ Dimitris Trikas on “Songs for Aesop’s Fables” ( - December 14, 2014)



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II. The Cicada and the Ants

VIII. The Fox and the Grapes

Back to Pedagogy

VII. Three Bulls and the Lion

Jazz Pianist Lefteris Kordis revisits Ancient Greek Stories with

“Oh Raven, If You Only Had Brains...” – Songs for Aesop’s Fables (INCM 024CD)

In his fourth recording as a leader, released in Greg Osby’s “Inner Circle Music” label, pianist Lefteris Kordis delivers an ambitious song cycle. His setting of seven of Aesop's fables, mixing Greek and English texts, blends Impressionist colors, post-bop intricacy, Greek folk music, and free-jazz flourishes. For all that variety, however, it's a focused work that coheres around a powerful, even indispensable, text.

Whether Aesop was, according to one Byzantine story, a slave born in Ethiopia, or simply the composite, imagined author of all the stories and proverbs attributed to him, the stories themselves are necessary knowledge. That they have come to be thought of as children's stories reflects not so much their simplicity as their priority in our literary experience. These are stories that, like Bible stories, we read and learn early, if not first. It is for that reason that the fables serve Kordis well as a composer and improviser.    

This album is part of a programmatic tradition, like Berlioz's “Symphonie Fantastique,”

Stravinsky's “Histoire du Soldat,” or Ellington's later suites, use strong and clear narratives to structure daring and adventurous music. And like those other works, the story in this case has the potential to make a progressive, modern musical vocabulary accessible to a wider audience.

The album's first track, In the Land of the Phrygians, opens with a deft ensemble statement that is all delicately just-barely-off-kilter phrases. Different instrumental voices are introduced: a cello, then a clarinet, and then a violin. And this quickly gives way to an unassuming bit of virtuosity. As his left hand holds down a 7-beat ostinato, Kordis unfolds a graceful improvisation with the right.

It's an auspicious start for a record that is, in so many ways, unassuming in its virtuosity. The musicians, drawn from Boston's community of talented improvisers, play with an elan that make the Greek-derived odd meters sound effortless. The vocal talent is especially impressive. Panayota Haloulakou's voice is rich, burnished, and effortless even when negotiating the trickiest passages. Listen to her sing a long snaky unison passage with clarinet in The Fox and the Grapes. And her use of extreme tonal and dramatic effects, as in the a cappella opening of The Three Bulls and the Lion, is refreshingly unfashionable in an era when so many modern jazz singers focus exclusively on using the voice as a dry and precise instrument. Darryl Harper, the clarinetist, does double duty providing the English narration. His cadences occupy a middle ground between sprechstimme and performance poetry. And featured guest Anna Goutzilika delivers a traditional Greek ode to Death with all the requisite pathos.