Jazz musician Demetrios Kastaris (‘El Griego Rumbero’) on “Voices and Music” | 02.05.2024

Demetrios Kastaris was born in Thessaloniki. When he was only two and a half years old, his family moved to the United States. After living in Lorain Ohio for a few years, they settled in the up-and-coming jazz city of St. Louis, Missouri, where Demetrios grew up.

While he was in the third grade of elementary school, Demetrius’ class was invited to a school’s middle class event to listen to a live performance of a classical quintet. The presentation included a demonstration of the slide trombone by a member of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. The deep sonic timbre and unique mechanical design of the instrument is what drew him to it so strongly. A little later Demetrios began to take classes and play in the concert band of the primary school. He began playing trombone at the University of Missouri/St. Louis Jazz Ensemble while still a senior at Affton High School, from where he graduated with honors in music.

After two years at UMSL, Demetrios moved to New York City where he received a scholarship to study at New York University and pursue his musical dreams. While at NYU, a band leader saw him carrying his trombone case on the subway and invited him to a rehearsal where he was given the opportunity to perform Afro-Cuban Jazz covers for the first time. Demetrios became fascinated with this exciting multifaceted, polyrhythmic music and began to attend concerts of Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Ray Barretto, Willie Colon, Eddie Palmieri and other Latin music teachers, and transcribe and analyze their recordings.

He finished his studies in music education at NYU with academic honors and then earned a master’s degree in jazz interpretation at the renowned Manhattan School of Music, where he performed in concerts behind jazz legends such as Jimmy Heath, Slide Hampton, Phil Woods, Jon Faddis, and Red Rodney. In the same period Demetrios met the leading jazz trombonist Steve Turre.

In September 1986, Demetrios decided to form the Latin-Jazz Coalition band and record several of his original compositions in the genres of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz. He is now known in Latin music and Latin Jazz circles as “El Griego Rumbero”.