Perhaps the best introduction to his sound is in this trio. Karayorgis has led several variations of a classic jazz trio, first his collaboration with Nate McBride and Randy Peterson, then MI3, with McBride and Curt Newton. The machination of the trio concept on Cocoon teams finds him with bassist Jef Charland and drummer Luther Gray. With respect to his other trios, this one is the best yet.
Karayorgis' music is a blotter for the music of Herbie Nichols, Thelonious Monk, and Andrew Hill. Like these skilled innovators, the signature on these compositions (six out of ten here) is his explanation of swing. The pianist combines the playfulness of Alexander von Schlippenbach with the physicality of Don Pullen to create a slightly unbalanced sound. His self-spun approach on "You Took My Coffee And Left" pairs a stylish swing with a galloping right hand full of notes. With a rhythm section eager to swing along, Karayorgis is free to fly. "Sideways Glance" could easily be mistaken for a Monkian meditation, employing an off-kilter groove to showcase what critics once called "wrong notes," when played by Monk.
Charland and Gray are disposed to the same approach. They can tinker with a time signature, as on "Jabberwocky," or extend the conversation. On "Red," a tromp of a blues, Charland maintains his end of the conversation, with Gray sliding remarks in between. Each piece presented here is a unique take on surreptitious swing.
Habitués of this space probably know of my esteem for Boston pianist and composer Pandelis Karayorgis, a musician whose rigorous explorations of the less frequented corners of jazz history have consistently yielded deeply original and compelling new sounds. He's managed to revisit the work of pianists like Lennie Tristano, Herbie Nichols, Elmo Hope, Hassan, and early Cecil Taylor and bring back consistently fresh ideas in all sorts of contexts. Earlier this year he and Boston-based reedist Jorrit Dijkstra launched Driff Records—the label just added four new titles to its catalog, and they have me thinking that this might be the most exciting new jazz label in 2013. (…)
I've had the music from Circuitous for a long while, but since I just got the package from Driff this week I've only heard the excellent new trio outing by Karayorgis a couple of times—still, that's enough to know how good it is. On Cocoon he's supported by bassist Jef Charland and drummer Luther Grey, both of whom contribute a few compositions, although the lion's share are from the leader. It's a much more introspective and quiet affair than Circuitous, but it's equally rewarding and relentlessly swinging. The rhythm section is a lean, agile machine, functioning as the sturdy armature for the pianist's wonderfully jagged, sometimes glassy improvisations. Karayorgis is fond of his instrument's left end, punctuating phrases with brusque bass stabs, but his mastery of harmony—finding unexpected, piquant chords in every conceivable situation—is the thing. I can't say too much more since there's plenty to absorb, but the tunes are sticking to my brain and I'm looking forward to all the revelations contained within. Below you can check out one of the leader's characteristically catchy and knotty tunes, "You Took My Coffee and Left."
The pianism of Pandelis Karayorgis first got my attention when I was writing for Cadence. Since then I have covered a fair number of his albums. I find him one of the more important and more interesting piano voices out there today.
He recently recorded a new trio outing which we finally get a chance to talk about, namely Cocoon (Driff 1302). I am happy to say that this is another very good one. It involves a three-way confluence between Karayorgis, Jef Charland on bass, and Luther Gray on drums. Karayorgis pens six of the numbers, Gray and Garland each contribute two. They are fine vehicles for the extensive improvisations that follow.
Luther Gray is a great drummer for this kind of date--because he can swing mightily, creatively accentuate any compositional aspects and come up with effective interplay with the other two whatever the context. Jef Charland can walk in ambiguous tonal territory with flair; he solos and interacts with taste and force.
But in many ways this is an ideal showcase for Pandelis and what he is up to. There is still the Monk-like foundation of his touch and an extension of the dissonant advanced comping and percussiveness to a point well on and self-developed. There is the presence of tradition in other ways too. Listen to "You Took My Coffee and Left," a blues, and you'll hear the old and the very new interacting--it's still very much a blues in structure but it takes it all further.
You can hear a bit of the Bley out-in-in harmonic openness, only it's fully Karayorgisized. There are well-placed out block chords, left-handed horn explorations and the split chord-horn left-right mix that you expect in the tradition, but the timing and the choice of notes is impeccable. His rich inventiveness comes through very well here--and that is something to ear-in on! Every solo is a lucid story that doesn't repeat as much as flows with thickly percussive rhythmic thrust and melodic-harmonic inspiration.
Well so this one is what anybody interested in piano trio freedom within the jazz tradition should hear. It is a major addition to the Karayorgis discography, which to me is a fine thing indeed.
For brevity's sake, let me jump halfway into this excellent album to 'Sideways Cacoon'. Karayorgis' striking chords and Charland's pulsating, yet restrained, bass make for a delicate yet grabbing underlayment to the accessible and convoluted melodic lead. This is followed up by 'Settling,' a more dramatic and rhythmic piece featuring the bass and driving percussion.
More traditional in its instrumentation and approach, the Trio is a wonderful showcase for Karayorgis' knotty and enjoyable compositions. (…)
These four recent releases from Karaygoris' label are really excellent examples of the intersection of composition and free playing. The different combinations of instruments and approaches showcases the pianist's influences and exciting musical ideas. Great music, check it out at http://driffrecords.bandcamp.com/.
Die CD ”Cocoon" ist eindeutiger von Karayorgis' Ideen und von erweiterten Spielmodellen des Jazz-trios bestimmt. Sie beginnt mit einem Tristano-artigen Groove, der wiederholt auflebt und versiegt. Generell wird mit dem Rhythmus ebenso gebastelt wie mit der Form. Mit präzise einstudierten, verzwickten Themen und Kopfmotiven (oft mit einem rhythmischen Sujet) improvisiert man offen, wobei trotz Kohärenz die intuitive Entwicklung allerlei Haken schlägt. Reaktionsschnell steigen sich die drei gegenseitig nach und verwickeln sich manchmal in lebhafte, schnell wechselnde Interaktionen. An die Stelle von Akkorden treten häufig Cluster und unter den Händen Karayorgis mutiert der Flügel phasenweise zur Perkussion. Zupackender Swing und verschiedene Arten des freien Timings sind ebenbürtige Alternativen. Der Drummer Gray versteht es, ebenso hart zuzupacken wie zart und geschmeidig mit Sounds zu malen. Sicher eine der besten Trio-CDs von Karayorgis.
Le pianiste Pandelis Karayorgis dans un trio jazz avec le bassiste Jef Charland et le batteur Luther Gray. On sent l’influence de Thelonious Monk dans l’écriture du pianiste, mais aussi (et même plus accentuée) dans les deux compositions de Charland. “Idiosynchronicity” de ce dernier, “Cocoon” et “Settling” de Karayorgis sont les moments forts de ce disque. Les passages improvisés - et “out” – sont nombreux, maisCocoon demeure ancré dans le jazz.
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