Christopher Bakriges

Pianist, Composer, Educator



Artists who encouraged me to consider the entire history of jazz
so that I could try and carve out my own place in it.

Christopher Bakriges was born in Detroit in 1958 and grew up near the original Motown Studios. He soon replaced his classical repertoire for lessons with Earl Van Dyke, Hitsville USA’s heralded sideman. “I learned how to approach playing by trying to phrase on the piano like Yusef Lateef does on his horn…and that kind of improvisation was a gradual process of teaching to be myself.” Chris began training with the Detroit Artist Collective and Temptation’s saxophonist Kusuku Mafie (Norris Patterson) which ultimately led to playing his own music with Jaribu Shahid and Tanni Tabbal.

After getting degrees from the University of Detroit, Chris had an opportunity to teach and play in the Republic of China where he developed a keen interest in the music of other cultures. Returning to the States, he began combining jazz, Mediterranean elements derived from his Greek heritage, and the rich African American cultural milieu in which he grew up, into a unique form of musical storytelling. “I heard what McCoy Tyner, Randy Weston, Abdullah Ibrahim and Mal Waldron were doing and said, ‘that’s it.’” Chris worked with Nadi Qamar in Vermont, Billy Taylor and Jimmy Giuffre in Massachusetts, and Harold Danko in New York before entering the world music program at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, serving for a time as Anthony Braxton’s pianist and music copyist and studying piano with Philadelphia’s Frederick Simmons. He later left for York University in Toronto to study ethnomusicology and work with Oscar Peterson. “These artists encouraged me to consider the entire history of jazz so that I could try and carve out my own place in it.” As a result, Chris’s improvisations blend jazz and more ancient cultures in his music.

Chris has performed internationally since 1990, including tours in India, Pakistan, Turkey, England, France, Canada, and the Czech Republic. In the early 90’s he was invited to co-direct “JazzFest” on Northeast Public Radio after its station director heard his ensemble Critical Theory in concert with Bobby McFerrin and David Darling. Broadcast monthly from the WAMC-FM Studios in Albany, New York, “JazzFest” became the only live jazz radio program being aired at that time in the United States.

Broadcast monthly from the WAMC-FM Studios in Albany, New York, “JazzFest” became the only live jazz radio program being aired at that time in the United States.

Besides performing his compositions, Bakriges was able to accompany many acclaimed artists such as Dave HollandKenny Burrell, Bernard Purdie, Lee Shaw, and Pat Metheny’s original rhythm section of Danny Gottleib and Mark Egan. Chris’s music reflects his diverse paths in life and his desire to interweave the past with the future, and traditional with new sounds. He has worked with many world music performers, including Swedish Sami nine-string guitarist Jonny Johannson, Jazz Manglam’s Rikhi Rays, whose double-neck guitar was bequeathed to him by John McLaughlin, Indian percussion master Sivamani, Japanese bassist Kazu Sato and vibraphonist Kiyoko Ami, Italian bassist Mauro Battisti and trumpeter Cicci Santucci, Vishnu Wood and Safari East, world rhythms percussionists Sunship, Brandon Draper, Royal Hartigan, Chris Lee, Rodrigo Villanueva and Loose Caboose’s Mwoli Oliver, Pakistani Sufi legends, the Sabri Brothers and Korean ajeng master Hyun Sik Shin –  HEAR “Improvisation on Four Korean Time Cycles” at Roulette in New York

Christopher Bakriges has developed something of a reputation for edge-of-the-seat virtuoso risk-taking. Raul da Gama, Jazz Global Media

Passion never dies. It grows
stronger every day.

Chris has lived in Vermont since the late nineties and was pianist and arranger for the late Stax Records vocalist Sandra Wright. He has played Canada’s Guelph and Toronto’s Jazz Festivals, Cleveland’s Ingenuity Festival as well as the city’s Tri-state Jazz Festival and both the Hartford International Jazz Festival and the Hartford Public Library’s Baby Grand Jazz Series in Connecticut.  He was an invited guest of Steinway & Sons to participate in the 2019 Newport Foundation Gala during the Jazz Festival and also performed during the Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival as well as the White Plains and Northwest Jazz Festival. He has performed at the Greenwich Village haunt 5C Cafe and the Richmond Shepherd Theater [serving as artistic director for the Beatnik Review starring Sheila Jordan], Manhattan’s Museum of Natural History with Dwayne Cook Broadnax  and Beldon Bullock, midtown’s 52nd Street Miles Cafe, and Brooklyn’s Roulette with Korean ajaeng master Song Jung Min.

Chris lectures a two schools in Massachusetts, Elms College and MassArt in Boston.

2020 marked the 10th and culminating year of Chris curating the Deerfield Valley Southern Vermont Jazz Series at Historic Memorial Hall in Wilmington, Vermont. The series features musicians from far and wide, including drummer Gabe Jarrett, saxophonist Willie Sordillo, bassists Santi Debriano and Jeff Fuller, and guitarists Matthias Ockert, Richard Boukas, John Stowell, and Joe Carter. The Matisse Jazz Project performances include the Detroit Institute of Arts as well as both the Indiana University and Notre Dame University’s Snite Museums of Art, New York’s New School, the Amistad Chapel in Cleveland, and Shippensburg and Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania. Chris’s residencies have been held at the Mobius Gallery at Cascadia College in Washington, Husson University’s Gracie Theatre in Maine, Eckerd College in Florida, and Webster University in Missouri. His recent club appearances include Club Café in Pittsburgh, Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis, Merriman’s Playhouse in South Bend, Michigan’s Kerrytown Concerts in Ann Arbor, Blu Jazz in Akron, and Cleveland’s Bop Stop.