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 Philadelphian 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 Jazz Piano Series in Connecticut.  He has performed at the Greenwich Village haunt 5C Cafe, New York’s Museum of Natural History, Brooklyn’s Roulette and the Big Apple’s 52nd Street jazz club, Miles Cafe.

Chris lectures both at Elms College in western Massachusetts and recently served as Artist-in-Residence in the Studio for Interrelated Media at MassArt in Boston.  The Matisse Project was performed in Bloomington at the Indiana University Museum of Art for their Matisse retrospective with guest bassist Jeremy Allen, faculty at IU’s Jacob School of Music. He has been performing both the fiddleFunk and the Matisse Jazz Project with violinist Stanley Chepaitis from Indiana University of Pennsylvania as well as with bassist Takefumi Tomita and violinist Gwen Laster, a fellow Detroiter. He and trumpeter Glen Whitehead from the University of Colorado performed their collaborative improv work carving into time in New York as part of the cross-cultural conference sponsored by the International Society of Improvised Music. A Brazilian jazz project in tribute to Tom Jobim, Johnny Alf and others was performed with guitarist and New School University faculty member Richard Boukas and New Haven based bassist Jeff Fuller.

2016 marks the 5th year of Chris directing the Deerfield Valley Southern Vermont Jazz Series at Historic Memorial Hall in Wilmington, Vermont. The series features musicians from far and wide, including German guitarist Matthias Ockert, Burlington-based drummer Gabe Jarrett and trumpeter Dave Ellis, and Boston saxophonist Willie Sordillo. The Matisse Jazz Project performances include the Amistad Chapel in Cleveland, the Snite Museum in South Bend, Saint Francis University in Loretto, The Gracie Theatre in Bangor, Eckerd College’s Miller Auditorium in St. Petersburg, and Webster University in St. Louis. Meanwhile fiddleFunk played at Club Cafe in Pittsburgh with bassist Jeff Grubbs and guitarist John Stowell, at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis and Merriman’s Playhouse in South Bend with bassist Nathan Santos and drummer Billy Arnold, and at Blu Jazz in Akron with bassist Dave Morgan, and drummer Ricly Exton as well as at the Bop Stop with bassist Glenn Holmes and drummer Paul Samuels.