Lines was voted among the top picks in the 1996 Cadence
magazine critics' poll.
& PAKULA: PLAYING ON THE EDGE
lives! Of the fifteen compositions on this CD, six are credited to the late
pianist and teacher, and two were written by Tristano alumni Lee Konitz and
Warne Marsh. Altoist Pakula has a good deal of Konitz in him, especially the
ability to sound intensely modern without being particularly boppish or "out."
Some of his lines are even bluesy in ways not always associated with the Tristano
school. The real surprise on this disc, however, is pianist Pandelis Karayorgis
who has internalized the lessons of Tristano without becoming a slavish member
of a cult. On Karayorgis's tribute to Misha Mengelberg, bearing the wonderful
title "Mishing," he grabs up big handfuls of notes, taking liberties
with time and key signatures but never ceasing to be part of a coherent ensemble
sound. His sidemen respond with corresponding intensity. On other numbers,
I hear major echoes of Herbie Nichols and several Monkish moments. More often
than not, however, Karayorgis is very much his own man, using quirky lines,
sudden bursts of dissonance, and soulfoul melodies, always in fresh combinations.
With drummer Eric Rosenthal, who appears on three cuts here, Pakula and Karayorgis
made an album for the Cadence Jazz label that received an enthusiastically
positive review from Richard B. Kamins (10/94, p.88). In that review, Kamins
resisted the temptation to talk about every track on the CD even though he
seemed eager to do so. I feel the same way about this latest effort-every
track is unique and invites commentary on how it compares to the others.
their new disc, "Lines" (Accurate Records), Boston-based Pandelis
Karayorgis and Eric Pakula find inspiration in the music of the legendary
Lennie Tristano, whose intricate melodies and fast-paced playing earned him
a cult following. Pianist Karayorgis and alto saxophonist Pakula, joined by
bassists Nate McBride and Jonathan Robinson and drummers John McLellan and
Eric Rosenthal in various combinations, also tackle tunes by Lee Konitz, Ted
Brown and Warne Marsh in the Tristano mode and contribute originals to the
set. The late pianist's music, not easily classified as bebop or anything
else, is rarely resurrected, probably because it can be intimidating to even
the best of players. Karayorgis and Pakula seem to relish Tristano's "317
E.32nd Street", inserting an out-of-tempo middle section. "Two Not
One" also gets a respectful update. As its title indicates, Pakula's
"Dark Song" is almost dirge-like with his alto sounding wispy, while
"Lament" could find a home as the soundtrack to a film noir detective
story. Pakula's "King Oliver" recalls Thelonious Monk, as does Karayorgis'
"Mishing" with its stop-and-go feel. "Dreams" gives the
pianist a chance to show that he's up to the challenge of straight-ahead Tristano.
Karayorgis and Pakula have earned a reputation for being among the more innovative
jazz players in Boston, and this disc keeps their reputations intact. Let
others try to re-invent swing or bop. These guys are going where few others
dare to tread.
[Laughs, recognizing the tune] I have no idea who this is but it's really
very clever, very refreshing. It's a Lennie Tristano tune that they've transcribed
here. Lennie is one of those guys who has not gotten the credit for being
the adventurous and perceptive artist that he was. He was not only way ahead
of his time, he was doing things which are now coming into focus in other
people's playing, as we hear on this track. An interesting treatment.
Happily, history may be in the process of being rewritten once
again. Tristano's music seems to be in the ascendancy, and traces of his influence,
in varying ways and degrees, can be found among such wide ranging musicians
as pianists Martial Solal and Pandelis Karayorgis, Georg Grawe and Guus Janssen,
saxophonist/composers Guillermo Gregorio and Anthony Braxton (and not only
in Braxton's alto saxophone, but certainly in his piano playing—where
Tristano rubs shoulders with Dave Brubeck, another pianist with at least a
partial debt to Lennie). And the list goes on.
Last year, Eric Pakula and Pandelis Karayorgis released Between
Speech & Song (Cadence), a brilliant recording that made my top ten albums
of the year. On that record, they played “Lennie’s Pennies,”
a song composed by the almost forgotten Lennie Tristano. This year they are
back with six by Tristano and two by his disciples Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh.
Tristano’s music, some (not me) would say is without emotion. He preferred
an intellectual pursuit of a song’s melody. A preference for precision
over expression. Karayorgis (piano) and Pakula (alto sax) in varying duos,
trios and quartets carries [sic] on the difficult Tristano sound. The music
is cool, abstract and at times free. Logical, is the best way to describe
the music on Lines. They also owe a debt to Thelonious Monk. His odd sound,
now a staple in the jazz dictionary, is called upon as further logic drawn
upon the band. They walk the road less taken by today’s jazz lions and
Lines should have been subtitled A Tribute to Lennie Tristano
because that's what this CD essentially is. Co-leading this March 1995 date,
pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and alto saxman Eric Pakula embrace seven of Tristano's
compositions (including "April," "Dreams," "Two Not
One" and "Baby") along with Warne Marsh's "Background
Music," Lee Konitz's "Kary's Trance" and some pieces of their
own. Throughout the album, Karayorgis and Pakula's very different outlooks
make for some interesting contrasts. While Karayorgis refuses to be the least
bit sentimental, Pakula has no problem being lyrical one minute and intellectual
the next. One thing they share, of course, is a healthy appreciation of Tristano's
innovations, but thankfully, they do a great deal of interpreting instead
of placing his music under a sheet of glass and treating it like a museum
piece. The end result is an album that isn't overly accessible, but is certainly
rewarding if you're willing to accept the improvisers on their own terms.
Alto-saxophonist Eric Pakula has, with pianist Pandelis Karayorgis,
made one of the best local jazz albums of the year, Lines (Accurate), a homage
to the linear propulsion of the late jazz svengali/pianist Lennie Tristano.
Pakula’s long lines and light touch recall Tristano-ite masters like
Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, informed by Pakula’s own lyricism and an
Eastern European melancholy.
Notes by Art Lange
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