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Culture

Elektra Kurtis at Symphony Space

 

NEW YORK – Elektra Kurtis and Ensemble Elektra will make their debut performance
at the prestigious Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space in Manhattan’s Upper West
Side on July 16 presenting her new work, “Bridges From The East.”
Violinist, composer and educator Elektra Kurtis has an expansive multi-cultural background.
Of Greek origin, she was raised in Poland and graduated from the Warsaw Conservatory at
Miodowa, prior to completing her studies in Finland at the Sibelius Academy of Music in
Helsinki. As a NYC resident for over twenty years, Elektra and her own group, Ensemble
Elektra (featuring violinist Curtis Stewart; clarinetist Lefteris Bournias; drummer Reggie
Nicholson; and bassist Kenny Davis), is dedicated to bridging cultural borders and genres of
music, using the essence of Mediterranean music, spiced with Polish, Greek and Arabic flavor,
based in contemporary jazz and classical music forms. With the goal of bringing a fresh
perspective to music, mixing the modern beat of NYC life with the ensemble’s multi-ethnic
roots,
“Bridges From The East” features compositions by Elektra separated into three sections –
“Rhapsody in Greek”, “Dedications” and “Polish Fantasy on Folk Themes”. According to the
composer, the title of the event, “Refers to how I compose and view myself in the world, and in
music. With my multicultural upbringing and experiences, I constantly find what connects the
many music traditions and genres and see the similarities of emotions and expressions. I
consider myself as being from the East. Eastern Mediterranean – Greece – and living in the
eastern US, playing eastern modes, and non-Western music, and the list could go on. ‘Bridges
from the East’ is like casting a rainbow from one end of horizon to the other.”
Having performed throughout the US, Europe and Finland in numerous chamber ensembles,
symphony orchestras, ethno-music ensembles (Greek and Gypsy music), Elektra is thrilled to
have the opportunity to perform at Symphony Space with her own world jazz ensemble. “I have
wanted to play there since I first visited New York City in 1984. I was staying on 92nd Street and
passed by this hall every day. I thought, one day I will perform my music here!”
Integrating the musical traditions and style she has experienced and assimilated throughout her
life, Kurtis’ inspiration comes from jazz, blues, Greek folk and Rembetiko music with its
taksims, as well as from Bartok, Strawinski, and Bach, among others. She started, at home, in a
family of Egyptian Greek refugees in Poland, learning about her heritage. She grew up in
Warsaw listening to a broad range of music from avant-garde contemporary music created in the
sixties and seventies, to Bartok, to jazz recordings from the US, to Greek folk music. Later, as a
student of classical violin in Finland, she also studied harmony, analysis and classical music
forms and performed concerts, in theatrical and television productions, radio broadcasts and
recorded the music of notable Finnish composers such as Edward Vesala and Toni Edelman.
Finally making New York City her home, Elektra’s music expresses her view of the world
through the lens of her own special style and technique. She has performed with such stellar jazz
luminaries as Lester Bowie, Gerry Mulligan, Paquito d’Rivera, Lionel Hampton, Shirley Horn,
Ray Barreto, Max Roach. She toured with the legendary Cuban bassist Israel “Cachao” Lopez
and observed his use of montunos, and studied arabic classical music with Simon Shaheen and
played in his Near Eastern Ensemble. She has performed the music of contemporary composers
such as John Rutter, Anthony Davis, John Zorn, Akua Dixon-Turree, Carman Moore, and Henry
Threadgill in venues such as the Knitting Factory, Irving Plaza, the Next Wave Festival at the
Brooklyn Academy of Music, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, Apollo Theatre.
Always staying true to her roots, she has also been a member of a Greek traditional music group
under the leadership of guitarist Vangelis Fampas.
With her group, Ensemble Elektra, whose members’ diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds
(African, Caribbean, Greek and Polish American) bring their own flavor to the music, she has
released three records – 2000’s The Book of Time; AFROdite’s Smile, which was released in 2005;
and 2010’s Cutting Through.
Recently receiving a grant from LMCC to help support her July show at Symphony Space,
followed by a performance on August 12 at the Cornelia Street Cafe, Elektra’s goal is to reach
listeners far and wide. With her unique blend of jazz, blues, and classical, with African,
Egyptian, Greek, and Mediterranean improvisation practices in folk music, she celebrates the
human spirit and the universal need of spontaneous expression through music.
For tickets visit: www.symphonyspace.org/event/8361/Music/elektra-kurtis-ensemble-elektra

 

 

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