Pandelis Karayorgis is a master at deconstruction. Whether it is a simple melody by Thelonious Monk, such as "Criss-Cross," which he dissects into microscopic parts, or a jointly improvised piece with his partner, bassist Nate McBride, the pianist gets to the essence of each piece without fanfare or musical acrobatics but with impeccable attention to detail. Karayorgis' roots can be traced to Monk, with whom the former shares an affinity to follow his own muse, regardless of prevailing trends. The 13 generally short tracks are surprisingly accessible, particularly considering their free improvisational style. McBride and Karayorgis play two solo pieces each, with the same attention to detail. While McBride is a splendid bassist and sparring partner, Karayorgis is the dominant voice. He exudes a confidant individuality that marks his performances as genuinely original. Highly agile with both hands, the pianist is one of a handful of avant-garde performers on his instrument who is not stylistically indebted to Cecil Taylor. Karayorgis jabs and juts like a boxer, seeming to nearly trip over himself, but actually always in control. He boasts a technical mastery that is never showy but instead used to advance his ideas. For example, he might repeat a phrase several times, in each instance altering it slightly for effect. The results satisfy uniquely as genuine artistic expression.
Steven Loewy, All-Music Guide
should say at the outset that Pandelis Karayorgis is one of my favorite pianists
- he takes the instrument one step beyond the innovations of Thelonious Monk
and Cecil Taylor, while keeping the former's sense of space and the latter's
dynamism and injecting a healthy dose of chromatic lyricism reminiscent of
Andrew Hill. ... The duo set on Cadence is more satisfying, giving freer rein
to the plasticity of the compositions (one aptly entitled "Rubber Time"),
and revealing more of the synergy between two musicians who have been gigging
solidly together for nearly a decade. McBride plays less walking bass here
than he does on the trio album and yet the whole thing swings like hell. The
album's finest track is a sinewy exploration of Monk's "Criss Cross",
fragments of which resonate and surface throughout the rest of the session,
apparently recorded in the pianist's living room - though the cameo appearance
by his dog Haris on "Eyes and Birds" isn't all that easy to spot
- presumably the hound was as enthralled by the music as the musicians were.
Karayorgis/Nate McBride, Let It (CADENCE JAZZ) Like an abstract Duke Ellington
(note his diamond-hard touch) or Andrew Hill (juxtaposing angular thematic
fragments), pianist Karayorgis links stark, staggered intervals into crabbed
contours of unusual lyricism. McBride's growling, biting bass adds harmonic
depth and texture to this program of quizzical and spry improvisations.
Karayorgis writes music for piano but he'd rather improvise, and the piano/bass
duo is one of the more intimate settings to fuel those urges. These recordings
with bassist Nate McBride were put to tape in the living room of Karayorgis'
home over the course of several months in 1999. Having played together for
many years prior, Karayorgis and McBride had no reservations about first takes,
even if the dog chose to contribute to the process. Thirteen impressive compositions--eleven
of which are fully improvised--ended up on tape, leaving us to wonder what
was left to scrap.
If you don't know Pandelis Karayorgis and his pianism, you are missing out on something. He's been around a while, lives in Boston, and has his own take on the avant improv free piano. There are players of the piano who are free yet their playing comments implicitly on the bop and beyond tradition they extend; then there are players that break the thread and emerge into a world of "pure" improv. This rule of thumb doesn't completely hold true to every player across the board. But think of Paul Bley for the former and later Cecil Taylor for the latter. Connie Crothers can go in either camp, Don Pullen could too. And Pandelis on his Let It (Cadence Jazz Records), straddles the line, crossing in either direction as the muse warrants.
This CD came out a few years ago. It gives you a substantial sampling of what Mr. Karayorgis can do in duet with bassist Nate McBride, who puts in an excellent performance on these improvisations, as anybody who knows his work might expect.
Pandelis is is great form on this one (but then again I've never heard him sound badly). There is a Monk influence to his playing, among other things, and it comes out in his staccato-sfortzando attack on dissonant chords and hard hitting single lines, not to mention some direct Monk quotes and a version of "Criss Cross" here. Karayorgis has so internalized the influence though that it is the voice of Karayorgis that speaks to us, wholly, whatever he plays.
McBride and Karayorgis have the kind of two-minded unity in this series of duets that few such interactions manage to achieve. They are on the same wave-length and inspired to give their best.
Let It provides plenty of examples of why I find Karayorgis on my short list of the most interesting free pianists working today. That list would include the aforementioned Ms. Crothers, and. . . well, Matthew Shipp, Anthony Coleman, of course Cecil Taylor, and I am leaving out people but the point is the handful is small. Let It gives you a more naked Karayorgis, if you will, an exposed player in the act of creation. So that is probably an excellent place to start for his music. Find out more about the album at www.cadencebuilding.com. Click on Cadence Jazz Records when you get there.
and McBride team up for another exploratory venture. This time, they play
as a duo on a quietly intense album where Karayorgis is again free to exert
his probing, contemplative, freeform style while McBride adds dense layers
of buoyant substance. The recording was made in a home setting where they
did not experience, in McBride's words, "the usual studio pressures."
While this type of venue may represent a more relaxed environment, the music
is anything but laid back. Karayorgis executes with subtle strength, methodically
picking out his notes with impeccable precision and intriguing logic. His
playing is not exactly sparse, but he makes a very valid statement without
needing to be musically verbose. His conservative use of notes is in keeping
with the style propagated by Monk. Karayorgis exploits this process on all
compositions, including his challenging rendition of Monk's "Criss Cross,"
the only tune not written by these musicians. Most compositions receive dual
two stalwarts of the important, but under-recognized, Boston improvisation
scene have a long-standing dialogue that has been crafted in numerous ensembles.
But for this lovely program, Karayorgis and McBride have documented their
work as a duo, in what is essentially a private concert (recorded in Karayorgis'
living room with occasional brief accompaniment by the household hound).
Taking a Line For a Walk" is not only the title of Let It's lead track, but an apt, near-definitive description of Pandelis Karayorgis' approach to piano playing. He's like a musical Slinky heading down a set of stairs, unpredictably shiffing from slow, ponderous, fragmented, right hand only movement to furious, Cecil Taylor like chases that slip, stumble and stretch all over the keyboard. Recorded informally in Karayorgis' living room, Let It has the pianist and bassist Nate McBride using the informal setting to create joyful, avant explorations that celebrate freedom but never escalate to pure self indulgent cacophony. McBride's a perfect foii to Karayorgis: his fierce plucking sounds like flip flops siapping against heels as he runs in the pianist's footsteps.
More than just the harmonies suggest Karayorgis has Monk on
the brain: he peppers the set with well integrated but sometimes distracting
snippets of Monk's famous melodies. A nearly nine minute version of "Criss
Cross" serves as a labyrinthine centerpiece, and during an all too short
30-second passage within,they're almost playing straightahead: McBride's strut
is confident in 4/4 while Karayorgis plays the melody, each line eventually
stumbling into charming Monkish discord. Even the most hardened nontraditionalists
will at the very least tap their feet.
Let It is a series of living room musical conversations by
the closely-knit duo of Pandelis Karayorgis, piano, and Nate McBride, bass.
With no written music, save for Monk's "Criss-Cross" and Karayorgis'
closing "Twenty," the pair embarks on a series of freely improvised
experiments mostly built from basic rhythmic structures and different ways
of stating and subdividing the rhythmic pulse. The informal recording situation
at Karayorgis' apartment, which gave the duo plenty of time to create without
any pressure, helps to shape the music's generally relaxed and friendly attitude.
The duo's marvelous exploration of "Criss Cross" is just one of
the highlights of this absorbing release.
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