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Yanni arrives full of surprises

Fri., April 29, 2011, midnight

Yanni hits Spokane on Tuesday. (Associated Press)
Yanni hits Spokane on Tuesday. (Associated Press)

Most people know the basic outlines of the Yanni story: He’s the man who plays piano on PBS with the Acropolis as the background.

He’s also the Greek-born (and American-educated) multi-platinum recording artist who will appear in concert Tuesday with his 17-piece orchestra at the INB Performing Arts Center.

Yet here are some things you may not know, gleaned mostly from a teleconference interview he gave last month with a group of reporters from around the country:

• Yanni never studied music theory. When he was a kid, he just “climbed up on the piano and taught myself.”

“I am so happy that I didn’t go to school and didn’t have anyone to tell me how to position my fingers correctly,” he said. “I’m into the creativity. … No teacher can guide you.”

• Not every Yanni song is instrumental. In 2006 he recorded “Yanni Voices,” an album full of collaborations with vocalists.

• He’s known for his Mediterranean influences, but his 2010 CD was titled “Yanni Mexicanisimo,” which features Yanni’s take on Mexican themes. He called it a project he did to “get out of my skin and “do something completely different out of left field.”

“I’ve been in Mexico so many times and I have so many fans there and they’ve been so kind to me …” Yanni told reporters. “I’m their adopted son.”

• His first L.A. band included another man who went on to become a PBS piano attraction, John Tesh.

• The hardest part of Yanni’s job? Inventing titles for his instrumental songs.

He said he tortures himself trying to come up with a title that points the listener in a certain direction, yet at the same time “leaves it open to interpretation.”

Thus, “Mist of a Kiss,” “Flash of Color” and “Echo of a Dream,” all titles on his latest album, “Truth of Touch.”

• He used to be a rocker – a kind of Yanni B. Goode.

“I used to play in rock ’n’ roll bands so I let a little bit of the rock player out in a couple of songs like ‘Vertigo’ (from ‘Truth of Touch’),” he said. “I wanted to kick it out a little bit.”

• Yanni gets a little vertigo from playing music.

“It’s like flight, you’re flying,” he said. “When you’re hitting something that’s turning you on, you get goose bumps. It’s a rush. It’s very exciting and that’s what I’m hoping to do to the audience.”

• He is aware that not everybody in the audience is totally thrilled to be there.

“Somebody brought them there, you know,” Yanni said. “But I know that they’re going to walk away satisfied. I know they’re going to at least look at this orchestra and listen to this sound and know they’ve never heard better sound in a concert. And I know they have to be impressed with the virtuosity of the musicianship.”

• And finally, in the “not-a-surprise” category is this: Lots and lots of people will be thrilled to be there.

“I think I have the best orchestra with me that I’ve ever had and I think it is the best-sounding concert,” he said. “And it’s a combination of everything from the beginning of my career all the way to now.”



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