Interview with Peter Deneff


We just launched our 4th episode of our new TAQS.IM Middle Eastern Podcast. Andrew and Aram interview Peter Deneff, an accomplished Pianist and Jazz Fusion musician, about his background, his involvement in the Los Angeles Middle Eastern Music club Scene, and his approach to microtonality and Jazz music.

Topics Include:

  • Deneff’s background as a Greek-American keyboard/piano musician, growing up in Long Beach/Los Angeles
  • Impact of the bouzouki on his musical development and interests and working with artists from other ethnic backgrounds
  • Collecting LPs and copying them to cassette tapes – compilations from the past and listening to those artists and how that influenced his playing and repertoire
  • The peak of the music scene at Athenian Gardens in the SoCal live cabaret/bellydance music scene in the 70s/80s/90s
  • The cultural melding of Greek and Gypsy/Turkish music (Skiladika), and the influence of Pontic Greeks in that style along with the music scene of Thessaloniki
  • Exposure to the Armenian music scene locally with aficionados and artists (Harout Khatchoyan, Yervand Kalajian, Vik Momjian, Hratch Yacoubian, Hovig Krikorian)
  • The impact of Persian and Arabic music on his career and how this blended with his Greek background in music
  • Detail of his studying with Mike Garson (legendary Jazz Pianist who worked with David Bowie)
  • Thoughts on music as a language with different dialects across middle eastern music and jazz
  • Would practice playing along to Charlie Parker’s music
  • Differences between makam music and jazz, and how they informed his understanding of proficiency in both styles
  • His use of microtonality in his music in makam and jazz music, and his first memory of hearing quarter tones used by a Lebanese tsiftelli record years ago
  • Discussion of various keyboards and synthesizers he uses in his music, and the use of scale converters for quarter-tone usage
  • Explanation of quarter tones in Arabic music, the use of 50 cent adjustments
  • Different flavors of microtonality he uses in his music, for example hijaz and the adjustment of various pitches within the mode and how live music can diverge from the uniformity and rigidity of the classical motif
  • Mention of playing quarter/microtones on the bouzouki from certain players
  • His attraction to how Armenian music in the 1970s and 1980s moved toward keyboard-centric instrumentation and the impact of this on his musical development
  • His performances are about speaking to the audience and interaction with people and the connections that arise from his music and performance
  • Keyboards and accordions used in Greek music, along with Farfisa organs
  • The “dead zone” of lacking keyboards in Greek music back several decades ago was not exploring keyboards like Armenian music was, and now there is a lot more clarinet and violin exposure with microtonality and reincorporation of traditional ethnic elements – which was not the scene when he was coming up playing music
  • Comments on some of the Greek keyboard players he listened too for musical guidance and perspective
  • His work with Enrico Macias
  • IM’s work with the synth app and upcoming sample library recording projects
  • Would love to do concerts with Bach and the Beatles, Kazantzidis, Palaiologou
  • Excursion, Synthesi projects are a big focus for him

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