Alekos K. Vretos was born in Athens in 1976. In 1978 his family moved to Argos were he grew up. His father was in love with music so he took him for piano lessons at the age of three. That was Alekos’ first contact with music. His first piano teacher was Mrs. Eleni Apostolaki. At the age of sixteen he decided that his route in life would be music. Yiannis Iordanoglou was the first to open his eyes on what music and being a musician is really about.
In 1993, Alekos settled in Athens were he studied classical music in the Athenaeum Conservatory with Panagiotis Adam (harmony) and other great teachers. At the same time, because he was a jazz lover, he enrolled in the Phillipos Nakas Conservatory were he studied jazz with Markos Alexiou (improvisation), Takis Paterelis (composition and arranging), Pantelis Benetatos (jazz piano), Spiros Panagiotopoulos (ensemble training) and Kostas Baltazanis (improvisation and jazz harmony).
In 1995, Berklee College of Music held a weekly seminar in the Nakas Conservatory under the name “Berklee School in Greece”. Alekos won the award for “Outstanding Musicianship” and the doors of Berklee College were open for him. Soon after that he won a Phillipos Nakas scholarship for the year 1995.
In September 1996 he enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. There he studied as a Jazz Composition major. Some of the teachers that gave him more insight for music were: Vuk Kullenovic (composition), Ray Santisi (Jazz piano), Dick Lowell (Jazz composition), David Callahan (Conducting), and Dennis Grillo (Orchestration). During his studies in Boston he performed extensively as a piano player in jazz ensembles and Big Bands. He graduated in 1999.
A year earlier he took up the ud (Arabic lute) and he fell in love with an instrument that had nothing to do with jazz but had a lot to do with Greece and the Mediterranean region. He met the great Master Simon Shaheen who offered him the first steps towards the Arabic music and ud playing. Alekos considers master Shaheen his mentor and his musical benefactor. They see each other once a year at master Shaheen’s Arabic Music Retreat, where Alekos has attended from 1998-2004. Of course, Alekos had lessons with other teachers in Arabic music such us: Marcel Khalif?, Bassam Saba, Dr Ali Jihad Racy, Dr George Sawa, William Shaheen and Charbel Rouhana. He has attended many lectures in Arabic music and in 2004 he won a gold medal in an ud improvisation and artistry contest in the U.S.
As a professional he has performed with different ensembles in Greece with great reviews on his playing and composing. Some of the musicians that he has worked with as an udist are Yiorgos Despotidis, Nikos Androulakis, Panagiotis Mylonas, Kostas Thomaidis, Yiorgos Boufidis and others. Also, he has appeared on TV as a permanent udist in the “Greek Tradition show” in the Hellenic Television for 3 years. He has worked in the Music Ensembles of the Hellenic Radio for over two years as an ud soloist and arranger. He has collaborated with the Great Music Library in the Athens Concert Hall, as a supervisor in the digitalization of the “Mikis Theodorakis” archives. He conducted a research in cataloging the same archive in 1998.
Alekos K. Vretos was the founder and Music Director of The Meliti Ensemble. Their first release “Yunan” was very promising and it was welcomed by media and audiences. One of his great collaborations was with the great composer Mikis Theodorakis in Editions Romanos which manages the total work of the composer.
In 2005 Alekos K. Vretos co-produced with Dimitris Maragopoulos and the Athens Concert Hall a concert featuring master Simon Shaheen and Hussein el Masry. The concert was a great success. Since 2006, Alekos K. Vretos has been collaborating with the Athens Concert Hall as a concert producer.
In 2013 he recorded the album K. on top featuring original tracks along with musical pieces by friends Gilad Atzmon and Ara Dinkjian together with favorite compositions by Anouar Brahem.
Alekos had a new project in 2018 called “Open Strings Project”. The project consisted of Alekos playing his oud and Charis Charalambous on electric bass with a series of loops and electronics.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.