As is appeared in the Youngstown Vindicator March 6, 2005 <Back to home page

by : Troy Reimink



Timeless tunes

Local musician has played same gig every Tuesday for past 20 years.

YOUNGSTOWN - When asked his age. Teddy Pantelas answered sharply: Timeless."

Pantelas, a well-known local jazz guitarist, has spent his life playing his own tune, untouched by the nearly 20 years that have passed since he began performing weekly at Cedars Lounge & Restaurant in downtown Youngstown.

Many things in the area have changed since the late 1980s, when Pantelas started his Tuesday-night gig at the music club. 23 N. Hazel St. But he has remained constant, which he said was his goal all along.

"I just wanted my music to be timeless." Pantelas said during an interview at his home on the north side of town. There's some music I have from the 80s that you could never tell was from the 80s. I've never been much for fads."

The popularity of jazz has waxed and waned several times during his life. but Pantelas has maintained a steady career. He has performed and recorded with well-known artists, including one of his idols, Phil Keaggy. On Pantelas' wall hangs a framed personal note he
received on his wedding day from Pat Metheny, whom Pantelas describes as the greatest living jazz guitarist.

Pantelas regularly teaches about 10 students of various ages. Seeing a pupil develop, he said, is one of his greatest pleasures.

"That's a great joy when you see someone getting better and better," he said "When they stick with you. it makes you feel so happy."

Accompanying artist

Wilbur Krebs has stuck with Pantelas since the early 1980s. Krebs, a bass player, has been performing and collaborating with the guitarist ever since the two met while living in Kent. and he occasionally sits in on Cedars gigs.

Krebs said Pantelas' longevity and songwriting chops make him unique to the Youngstown area. where there isn't much of a jazz scene.

"It's really amazing to be able to hold this gig down. but also to keep it creative." Krebs said. That's one of the things that sets him apart down here."

Krebs said he has benefited immeasurably as a musician while playing with Pantelas.

"The thing that Ted has is a very high concentration level," he said. "It's always about getting as much out of the music as you can."

With a rotating group of musicians, Pantelas plays original music and his own arrangements of jazz standards, which proceed according to a free-form improvisational vibe.

"The form of the song is going through our heads when we're playing it, but the improvisation is never the same." he said.

Musical influences

Sometimes Pantelas and his band will stray from the beaten path. A recent Tuesday gig featured a musical selection that was mostly blues-derived.

But jazz remains the focus, an extension of an interest he developed early in life. He first picked
up a guitar at age four and began playing seriously at six. lured to the instrument by the desire to emulate his rock-and-roll idols.

"The Beatles were the whole thrust of why I even started playing music." he said.

His tastes took a crucial turn at age 15, when he first listened to legendary jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery.

"As soon as I heard him, I knew I wasn't supposed to be playing rock music," Pantelas said. "It was like I heard the truth. The sound of that music and those notes he was playing was like someone telling the truth."

There was no turning back. Pantelas became a part of Cleveland's jazz scene during his 20s. He has been on the faculty of the Allegheny Music Festival and Montessori School System. Currently, he is the musician in residence at Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren, where he plays for recovering patients.

Work in progress

His training on the guitar, he said, is an ongoing process. As a youngster, he practiced "no less
than eight hours a day." Now, he plays for between two and four hours daily and has been studying classical music to improve his grasp of jazz. He's in the middle of learning Bach's "Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites."

"You have to practice like fiend," he said. "The real training in jazz is just playing it"

Pantelas recently recorded an album and is in talks with a New York jazz label for a distribution deal.

His real love. however, is playing live.

"I think it's really important to see live jazz. You get that real feeling of being there and hearing a
master play."

Youngstown has had that pleasure for many years. And. as long as Pantelas remains "timeless," he'll be there for years to come.