Q&A with young saxophonist and composer Melina Paxinos - combines modern jazz with her Greek roots in her pieces

"Music, as a universal language, has so much power and I hope that my music will touch a lot of people because this is the best gift for me as an artist."

Melina Paxinos: Modern Jazz, Greek Roots

Melina Paxinos is a young saxophonist and composer who combines modern jazz with her Greek roots in her pieces. Born in Hamburg and living in Berlin for almost seven years, she studied music production – arranging and composition at SRH Hochschule der populaeren Kuenste and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. A fusion between‚ odd meters’, Mediterranean melodies and groovy riffs build the foundation of her compositions – „Greek-Jazz“. Melinas first album „Circle of Oddness“ (2018) illustrates the connection of the odd and even meters. Inspired by the Athenian vibe she recorded her second album „Athens“ (2019) in her hometown Athens in the Sierra Studios and named it after it.                                                   Melina Paxinos / Photo by Ria Carajiaba

The band members are: Melina Paxinos (comp. & sax), Yiannis Papadopoulos (piano), Ntinos Manos (bass) and Dimitris Klonis (drums). On this album the special guest is Ross Daly, who accompanied the band with his Cretan lyra. Melina released her new album ‘Remixes EP’ (2020) with the pioneer of Greek electronic music, Lena Platonos.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Jazz and Electronic music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I think that Jazz and Electronic music is a great symbiosis. Already in the 70’s, trumpet and composer genius Miles Davis found ways to integrate electronic devices such as synthesizers, samplers, drum machines and sound effects, into Jazz music. Albums like Bitches Brew (1970) and Tutu (1986) were the pioneers of the ‘Electric Jazz movement’. The development of technology has made a tremendous impact in the music industry. When I started producing electronic music, I learned a lot about how to build up a song, how to arrange the instruments and it helped me to construct my compositions.

So, my composition procedure starts with playing the themes on the piano, then recording it in Logic Pro X and then playing the melodies with my saxophone and figuring out what’s working and what’s not. Also, when I was 17, I accompanied DJ’s with my saxophone in some venues in Germany and Greece and it was an amazing experience.  Although I now prefer to play my own music with my jazz quartet “Melina Paxinos Quartet”.

How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? Where does your creative drive come from?

My compositions are a combination between modern jazz & my Greek roots. Therefore a fusion between ‚odd meters’, mediterranean melodies and groovy riffs build the foundation of my compositions - „Greek-Jazz“. My biggest musical inspirations besides the Greek traditional ‘Rebetiko’ music I learned from my parents, are the bass player Avishai Cohen, Miles Davis and Kenny Garrett. I get my creative drive by going to concerts and listening to music like: traditional music, jazz, classical music and funk.

"I think that Jazz and Electronic music is a great symbiosis. Already in the 70’s, trumpet and composer genius Miles Davis found ways to integrate electronic devices such as synthesizers, samplers, drum machines and sound effects, into Jazz music." (Melina Paxinos / Photo by Ria Carajiaba)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Dream bigger, work smarter not harder and be patient. I read a lot of self-development books and that’s what’s working for me the best, besides the love and support of my family. What I like to do is to draw my future dreams on a piece of paper to visualize them better.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I really can’t compare the past with the present because I didn’t experience to be a musician of the past since I’m 26 years old. But what I can think of is that in the past there was more respect and admiration for the musician as a creator and a human being than nowadays. My hopes for the future are a better supporting system for musicians in the live section and that we still can play in front of an audience. My fears for the future are that a lot of concerts will only be enjoyable via streaming.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

First, I would offer a platform for musicians who don’t have a big label deal in the beginning, to get the financial support they need to start their career. Especially in the beginning of your musical career you need money for your first album recording, mixing, mastering, to pay your musicians well, the engineer, the CD/Vinyl pressing, the marketing, your website, merchandise, some good promo, the graphic designer for your CD cover and some other costs. I think that this first financial boost would help a lot of composers/musicians to realize the first steps in the music business.

Second, I would set a minimum fee of 200 Euro for each musician, when it comes to playing live. No more: “Come and play and I’ll give each of you 50 Euro”. This is not equal to the years you spend investing in yourself and your abilities. I know that a lot of jazz venues don’t have the possibilities to pay those fees but there could be also a monthly boost of the ministry of culture for the venues to being able to pay their bills and the musicians well. For me there is no lack of good musicians worldwide but a lack of good infrastructure for the live music section.

"Dream bigger, work smarter not harder and be patient. I read a lot of self-development books and that’s what’s working for me the best, besides the love and support of my family. What I like to do is to draw my future dreams on a piece of paper to visualize them better." (Melina Paxinos / Photo by Katja Ruge)

Are there any similarities between: Jazz & Greek traditional music? What touched (emotionally) you from the saxophone?

I think the obviously similarity is the act of improvising. In the Greek traditional music like rebetiko, instruments like bouzouki or clarinet are taking the solo part. The ‘Taksimi’, is the traditional way of improvising mostly over one tonal center and in a rhythm like 9/4 or 9/8 which is the typical ‘zeimpekiko’ rhythm. Modal Jazz could be the comparison to this kind of one tonal center improvisation. The sound and playing of my saxophone hero Kenny Garrett is always touching me.

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Unfortunately, there were a lot of women in the music industry who didn’t get the recognition they should for their work because of their gender. For example, the British composer and inventor Daphne Oram (1925 - 2003), initiated in the 50’s the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, worked as a sound engineer at the BBC, designed a unique sound generator and founded her own studio in 1959. All that in times of an extremely male dominated society. Even though she has done so much for the development of electronic music in the UK, she never got the appreciation she deserved during her lifetime.

In this context it should be mentioned that patriarchy is not easy to ignore.  Now in 2020, I can see the progress but there are still a lot of things to work on towards a better and equal system. What surprises me is that even in these days in a lot of countries there are so many women singers. Maybe the first step towards a new open-minded era for the young generation could be to support more young girls to start an instrument or producing music. One of my first female idols was the Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer. To have Candy as role model for a successful female saxophonist helped me working towards my dreams.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?                                 (Melina Paxinos / Photo by Ria Carajiaba)

Music, as a universal language, has so much power and I hope that my music will touch a lot of people because this is the best gift for me as an artist. My wish for all musicians is that they continue to create, develop and that they don't forget their roots. The best way to keep the traditions alive is to merge it with something new.

"My hopes for the future are a better supporting system for musicians in the live section and that we still can play in front of an audience. My fears for the future are that a lot of concerts will only be enjoyable via streaming."

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Greece has so many beautiful places! I would like to go to my favorite Greek island Sifnos, with my family, my loved ones and my friends. It would be great to play there on a Jazz Festival and enjoying the amazing vibe, colors and smells of the island.

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