Christopher Bakriges was born in Detroit in 1958 and grew up near the original Motown Studios. He soon gave up his classical repertoire for lessons with Earl Van Dyke, Hitsville USA’s heralded sideman. “I learned how to approach playing in the Detroit Style of jazz piano, imitating Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Sir Roland Hanna, Kirk Lightsey, and 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.
Jazz is one of the most vital and ever-changing musics in the world. Jazz music has continually evolved since its birth nearly one hundred ago. The music has always had the ability to cut across both national boundaries and musical genres, revealing the unity among seemingly different cultures. There is a powerful relationship between tradition—the continuity of culture — and the creative freedom of innovation through the spirit of improvisation. I am proud to play a part in this true world music. —Chris Bakriges
Willing to teach
Beginner to advanced
Professional Qualifications/Teaching History
2013-present, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MA
Visiting Professor, Liberal Arts Department, teaching The World of Music; supervisor
of directed study in music theory and composition.
2003-present, Elms College, Chicopee, MA
Lecturer, Division of Humanities and Fine Arts and Coordinator of Music Minor