Q&A with Italian/Greek jazz guitarist Dennis Pol, incorporates elements of gipsy jazz and contemporary jazz, blues and jazz fusion

"Music teaches people how to express their feelings when words are not enough. My musical path and career have taught me and is still teaching me how to interact and deal with other musicians and other people in life. The most important lesson that I’ve earned from my experience in music though is to stay true in what I want to be."

Dennis Pol: Guitarology Blends 

Dennis Pol is an Italian/Greek jazz guitarist and composer. He is the leader of the Dennis Pol Acoustic Quartet and is also involved in duets, solo works, and other side projects. His style incorporates elements of gipsy jazz and contemporary jazz, blues and jazz fusion. Dennis has two albums as a leader and is the first prize winner of the Bucharest International Jazz Competition in 2017 with the AG Quintet. Dennis was born in Campobasso, Italy and raised in Megara, Greece. His father Leonidas and his mother Massimiliana even though they were not musicians they wanted him to learn how to play the guitar, so at the age of 6 they bought him his first small size guitar. His parents were fans of rock and blues music and made him listen to Eric Clapton, The Beatles and Pino Daniele. Dennis’s interest in guitar increased around 2010 when he started studying jazz guitar with Vasilis Arsenides and Yiotis Samaras.

(Dennis Pol, NYC / Photo by Gulnara Khamatova)

His life changed after hearing Wes Montgomery’s solo on No Blues which he copied and learned it note by note. Soon after, he was captivated by Biréli Lagrène Live Jazz a Vienne. He cites Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt and Biréli Lagrène as having the biggest impact on his music. At age 18 he enrolled at the prestigious Conservatorium van Amsterdam where he completed his BFA in performing arts in 2018. Dennis released his debut album, NEW YORK CITY (2019) with Alina Engibaryan on vocals, Omer Ashano on violin, Joe Bussey on bass and Josh Kaye on rhythm guitar. His second album, DIG! (2021), was the first time he recorded as a duo with bassist Kimon Karoutzos, who became his most frequent collaborator. On this one release had the privilege to receive liner notes by the legendary jazz bassist Ron Carter. His third album, GUITAROLOGY (2021), is the debut album of the guitar duo of Dennis in collaboration with fellow Greek jazz guitarist George Koutsi. On this record Dennis and George had the privilege to receive liner notes by the great jazz bassist and owner of Gut String Records Neal Miner.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

Jazz music has influenced my views of the world and the journeys that I’ve taken in terms of always being ready to improvise and find solutions on the spot. This music has taught me to be openminded and accept other cultures. Jazz taught me that is everybody’s music and has no ethnicity and no color in it. If you love this music it doesn’t matter from where you come from as long as you speak and can communicate in this music language.

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

I’d describe my sound as a natural guitar sound. I love playing the acoustic guitar and I also love playing the electric archtop guitar just through an amp with no effects. It always fascinated me the fact that you can play the guitar and make many different sounds and effects with just the guitar. My creativity drive comes from guitarists such as Bireli Lagrene, Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery and George Benson.

"Music teaches people how to express their feelings when words are not enough. My musical path and career have taught me and is still teaching me how to interact and deal with other musicians and other people in life. The most important lesson that I’ve earned from my experience in music though is to stay true in what I want to be." (Photo: Italian/Greek jazz guitarist and composer, Dennis Pol)

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

There are many meetings and encounters with great and famous musicians that have been important through my musical career but the ones that have always stayed in my mind are the meetings with my two guitar teachers and mentors from Greece, Mr. Vasilis Arsinides and Mr. Yiotis Samaras. I wasn’t just fascinated by their great musicianship but mostly by their incredible subsistence as human beings. They always gave many great advices about music and life in general. Maybe a very important one that comes to my mind right now is to listen.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, workshops and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

For me every gig, jam or recording session is equally important and I always put one hundred percent of my self into every situation. It would take me a year to talk about all of those special moments I had so far in my musical journey!

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

I can’t say I miss something from the past. I’m lucky enough to live and work in New York City where I  have the chance to meet and play with top notch musicians all the time. There was great music in the past, there’s great music right now and there’ll be great music in the future too. My hopes and fears for the future is that hopefully music will still be played by human beings and not robots!

What is the impact of Jazz on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

(I won’t answer on “What is the impact of Jazz on the socio-cultural implications?”) I’ll just say that I wish that music will connect more people around the world and make them love each instead of hating each other.

"I’d describe my sound as a natural guitar sound. I love playing the acoustic guitar and I also love playing the electric archtop guitar just through an amp with no effects. It always fascinated me the fact that you can play the guitar and make many different sounds and effects with just the guitar. My creativity drive comes from guitarists such as Bireli Lagrene, Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery and George Benson."

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Music teaches people how to express their feelings when words are not enough. My musical path and career have taught me and is still teaching me how to interact and deal with other musicians and other people in life. The most important lesson that I’ve earned from my experience in music though is to stay true in what I want to be.

What would you say characterizes Greek Jazz scene in comparison to other European local scenes and circuits?

The Greek Jazz scene in my opinion is a great scene with many great musicians playing many different genres of Jazz music in a very high level. I also believe that Greek Jazz musicians have nothing to envy in terms of musicianship from other musicians from other countries in Europe. Also, more and more Jazz festivals are happening now in Greece and so I really believe that things will only get better for the Greek Jazz scene and community.

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

It’s a taught question because I have a few people in mind that I’d really want to meet and play with from the past. Maybe if I had only one day I’d choose to go somewhere back in the beginning of the 1950’s and meet Django Reinhardt. He’s one of my biggest inspirations in music and also having read about his biography and knowing how special of a character he was it really triggers me to meet him!

Dennis Pol Music - Home

(Dennis Pol, NYC / Photo by Gulnara Khamatova)

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