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>the mi3 (Karayorgis/McBride/Newton):




the mi3
hatOLOGY 652, 2008

Pandelis Karayorgis, Fender Rhodes
Nate McBride, bass
Curt Newton, drums

Recorded December 13 & 14, 2006 by Andy Hong, at Kimchee Records, Cambridge, MA.
Mixed by Andy Hong, at Kimchee Records January-March 2007.

available on Bandcamp

mi3 page

1. Green Chimneys (Thelonious Monk) 6:23
2. Saturn (Sun Ra) 9:04
3. Break Even (Pandelis Karayorgis) 8:11
4. Heaven (Duke Elington) 3:08
5. Betwixt (Pandelis Karayorgis) 4:52
6. Hypochristmutreefuzz (Misha Mengelberg) 4:15
7. Pinocchio (Wayne Shorter) 4:20
8. Brake's Sake Thelonious Monk) 6:38
9. Light Blue (Thelonious Monk) 3:32
10. Curt's Escape (Pandelis Karayorgis) 6:16
11. Off My Back Jack (Hasaan) 5:59
12. Humph (Thelonious Monk) 3:23



sketch by Monte Antrim
session photos

Tutored early on by Paul Bley, and with Thelonious Monk and Lennie Tristano his most pronounced formative influences, Pandelis Karayorgis isn't the most likely pianist to become a late-adopter of the Fender Rhodes. But after some twenty years recording with an acoustic instrument, on Betwixt Karayorgis exclusively plays the electric Fender Rhodes.

Or perhaps that should be “rebirths” the Rhodes. Karayorgis comprehensively wrenches the instrument from its 1970s fusion legacy and offers it up to post-modern jazz and free improv—augmenting its palette with a Mutron (a synthesizer-like sound filter once endorsed by Stevie Wonder), a distortion pedal, and a ring modulator (a Karlheinz Stockhausen favorite which twists sounds signals into new and often dissonant frequencies).

It's a delicious conceit. The combination of analog-era electric keyboard—the Rhodes produces sound mechanically rather than digitally—and vintage sound-shifter effects positions Betwixt outside normal chronology. The music sounds simultaneously futuristic and from another, earlier space—rather like boogie woogie pianist Meade Lux Lewis' use of a celeste on a 1941 session with clarinetist Edmond Hall, available on the Charlie Christian box set The Original Guitar Genius (Proper Records, 2005), or Fats Waller's use of a church organ.

It also sounds carnivalesque, primitive, unhinged and subject to random diversions—there are times when you wonder whether Karayorgis is leading his instrument or himself being led by its deus ex machina sonics—qualities which lend themselves brilliantly to four lesser-known Monk covers. “Green Chimneys” and “Brake's Sake” are given brisk, hard swinging workouts, Karayorgis sounding at times like a mutated soul-jazz organist, at others like guitarist Jimi Hendrix. “Light Blue,” like Duke Ellington's gorgeous “Heaven,” is more delicate. “Humph” is more rhythmically free.

Appropriately, Karayorgis also tips his hat to seminal time-traveler Sun Ra, whose “Saturn” is given a nine-minute exposition which cleverly reverses the blueprint revealed on Jazz In Silhouette (Evidence, 1958). Ra's tricky intro is re-centered on a solid, beat-centric bass ostinato, and his delightfully retro, swing-era main theme acknowledged, taken apart and finally reassembled.

Betwixt could easily have been a freak show—and there's no denying its novelty appeal—but it's much more than that. Karayorgis' new sonic and textural peregrinations are as substantial as his acoustic piano playing, and he's robustly supported by bassist Nate McBride and drummer Curt Newton. Already compelling on this first flush, it's a direction worthy of further exploration.

And now...who's going to pick up the Wurlitzer mantle left by the late Alice Coltrane?
Chris May, All About Jazz, June 23 2008
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Pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, bassist Nate McBride and drummer Curt Newton debuted as the Mi3 trio in 2005 with We Will Make A Home For You (Clean Feed), a riotous live recording that featured Karayorgis leading the trio on a vintage Fender Rhodes. Their studio follow up, Free Advice (Clean Feed, 2007) found Karayorgis back on home turf, playing acoustic piano. Their most definitive statement yet, Betwixt combines the electronic experimentation of their live debut with the sonic precision of the later studio session.

Dispensing with their ensemble name, the Boston-based, New England Conservatory grads continue down the adventurous path they blazed three years ago. Once again trafficking in a mix of thorny originals and under-sung covers, the trio shines new light on harmonically robust, but underexposed compositions by acknowledged masters, refracting them through a heavily amplified, kaleidoscopic lens.

Drawing from a rich well of classics, pieces by Duke Ellington ("Heaven”), Sun Ra ("Saturn”) and Wayne Shorter ("Pinocchio”) sit alongside obscure, yet striking tunes by Misha Mengelberg ("Hypochrismutreefuzz”) and the trio's spiritual forefather, Hasaan Ibn Ali ("Off My Back Jack”). The inclusion of four covers by Thelonious Monk re-affirms Karayorgis reputation as a foremost interpreter of the master's idiosyncratic aesthetic.

A former student of Paul Bley and adherent of the elliptical approach of Thelonious Monk and Lennie Tristano, Karayorgis uses analog electronics to generate unorthodox alien timbres that transform pitch and tone in the same way his progenitors re-imagined conventional melody and harmony with asymmetrical structures. Karayorgis augments his Fender Rhodes with a Mutron auto-wah pedal, a distortion pedal and a ring modulator, a volatile combination that lends his instrument a mercurial temperament with limitless sonic potential. At his most deconstructive, he pitch bends craggy chromatic tones into other planes of there on Sun Ra's “Saturn.”

McBride and Newton tackle elastic swing rhythms with an oblique approach, seamlessly incorporating rubato pulses, infectious ostinatos and intuitive call and response sections. They alternate between sublime coloration and spirited brio, allowing space for Karayorgis to unleash cadences that oscillate from gauzy whispers on the plaintive “Heaven” to psychedelic squalls of gritty feedback on the careening “Humph.”

Free Advice was a welcome reminder of Karayorgis' abilities in a traditional acoustic setting. Betwixt reveals him as a sonic architect of the highest order, a visionary improviser whose enthusiasm for the possibilities of sound knows no limit. Together, Karayorgis, McBride and Newton offer a thrilling set guaranteed to turn heads.
Troy Collins , All About Jazz, June 5 2008
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I'd never found Karayorgis's acoustic pianism easy to get into, but this riotous outing on Fender Rhodes converts me completely. Harold Rhodes invented the 29 note Air Corps piano in 1942, for injured servicemen to play in bed, using scrap parts from aeroplanes; in 1967, Miles Davis and Joe Zawinul launched its commercial success. Karayorgis deconstructs their fusion legacy into something 'betwixt' past and future, like such classic scifi as the original film of War Of The Worlds. Unlike a modern synth, the Rhodes is mechanical, its hammers striking metal tines, amplified like the strings of an electric guitar The result, says Karayorgis, is funky, colourful and real. It's an inspired programme including four less known Monk compositions, and a version of Misha Mengelberg's Monkish 'Hypochristmutreefuzz' from Eric Dolphy's Last Date. On the hilarious “Green Chimneys” the Rhodes is boxy, but opens out spacey effects for Sun Ra's "Saturn", an early composition by the cosmonaut of kitsch, fully exploiting vintage soundshifting - distortion pedal, ring modulator and mutron, a filter favoured by a Stevie Wonder. A wondrously cheesy, retro-futuristic gem.
Andy Hamilton, The Wire, August 2008

Rhodes scholars have come back in vogue over the past several years. Craig Taborn doubles on electric keys in both his solo work and under the employ of Tim Berne. Havard Wiik took a portable Fender console on a fruitful road tour with Atomic several years ago. This Hat set marks Pandelis Karayorgis’ second commercial outing with the instrument. Bassist Nate McBride and drummer Curt Newton are Karayorgis’ inspired compatriots on both. As with the previous album on Clean Feed, Monk factors heavily into the proceedings. The group opens with a Space Age retooling of “Green Chimneys” and slippery unpackings of “Brake’s Sake”, “Light Blue” and “Humph” populate later parts of the program. Palpable sci-fi trappings in Karayorgis’ chosen effects and tonalities feed into the feeling of a forgotten Sun Ra session flavor. No coincidence then that the trio sinks their canines into the Arkestral classic “Saturn”. Karayorgis opens the piece with strafing ray gun swathes as McBride and Newton lock on a skeletal vamp distillation of the familiar aliens-on-safari theme. Ellington, Mengelberg and the increasingly-less recondite Hassan Ibn Ali creep up at the mix as well, evidencing the band’s broad listening palate and the leader’s confidence in tackling covers.

Karayorgis revels in the greasy, perspiration-peppered sonorities of his keyboard, pulling in references to Jarrett circa Miles’ Cellar Door stand and accessing a comparable moody darkness. Glow-in-the-dark keyboard lines stretch and expand like saltwater taffy against the busy and often funky commentary of tightly wound bass and drums. One of three originals, “Break Even” snowballs along, drawing dramatic thrust from the contrast between McBride’s sharply drawn pizzicato strums and the squelching swells of Karayorgis’ chords. Similar jousting justifies the title piece and Newton gets in on the action, stamping authoritative tattoos in the cracks. Wayne Shorter’s “Pinocchio” proves another perfect recruit into the trio’s aesthetic, the tune’s obsidian corners sleeved in the oozing sheen of Karayorgis’ keys. There was a time not so long ago when the prospect of an electric piano in an ensemble would signal shivers of trepidation in my senses. That prejudice had roots in the comparative frequency of its application to trite and dated material. Not so today thanks to players of Karayorgis’ caliber and mien. His chosen style constitutes one of the more creative and kitsch-evasive approaches of recent memory.
Derek Taylor, Bagatellen, Oct.13, 2008 (link to article)

Voted among "Best CDs of 2008" by DownBeat magazine.
****(four stars) Any record on which a pianist turns to Fender Rhodes these days seems likely to be a commercial calculation, an approximation of the electric-Miles Davis esthetic in a contemporary lo-cal version. Such a treat, then, to hear a fresh take on the disabused instrument. The Greek-born Bostonian Pandelis Karayorgis is not without his funky edges on the amped keyboard, but his method isn't to put down kitschy grooves or create a sexy '70s fusion ambiance. In his hands, and with his wonderful trio, the Rhodes is transformed into a versatile, gritty, pitch-based electronic sound generator--a perfect free-bop tool.

On their first CD, We Will Make A Home For You (Clean Feed, 2005), the threesome went under the moniker mi3 but they've opted for birth names this outing. Nevertheless, the working concept is the same, taking a batch of Thelonious Monk tunes (four this time), a selection of fertile compositions by others and a few Karayorgis originals, and laying them out into a brilliant program. Sun Ra's "Saturn" is a loving nod at the electronic keyboard pioneer, adapting the signature tune associated with his early years; Karayorgis mutates the conventional Rhodes sound with several devices, including a Mutron, giving his solo an appropriately synth-like stretchiness and vocality.

The Monk pieces–especially a sweet, rather Ra-ish version of "Brake's Sake"–provide great material for the electric keyboard, the supersaturated sound emphasizing the right-on oddness of some of the chords. Misha Mengelberg's classic, Monkish "Hypochristmutreefuzz" is likewise a nifty foil for the band, prompting a tasty little solo from drummer Curt Newton, whose unfettered, unforced approach suits Karayorgis. Nate McBride, who was also based in Boston until settling in Chicago, continues to be one of the most riveting, beautifully melodic bassists around.

Karayorgis contributes his own pieces in the post-Monk lineage, all creatively conceived and full of spunk. He can handle down-tempo works with equal intelligence–for instance, the eerie ghost-voice on Hasaan Ibn Ali's "Off My Back Jack." Satisfying, stem to stern, Betwixt might encourage other sympathetic souls to hit the Rhodes.
John Corbett, Downbeat, November 2008

"Betwixt" is the third release from the Boston-based jazz trio known as mi3, though curiously that moniker does not appear anywhere on the new album. The captain of the ship is Pandelis Karayorgis, who returns to the Fender Rhodes electric piano for this outing with bassist Nate McBride and drummer Curt Newton. Karayorgis's utilization of the Fender Rhodes reminds me of the way Larry Young played the organ. No tired clichés are employed. Nor is this anything like fusion; don't come to "Betwixt" expecting "Bitches Brew." Instead, Karayorgis approaches the electric piano almost as though it's a horn with a broad palette of textures and expressive possibilities. And like his hero Thelonious Monk, Karayorgis emphasizes the space between the piano's notes as much as the notes themselves. He plays with understated elegance on Duke Ellington's "Heaven," goes for straight-up bebop on a few Monk tunes, kicks up the distortion on "Brake's Sake," and channels Sun Ra's space-age proclivities on "Saturn." Long after its heyday in jazz and rock, Karayorgis is taking the ol' Fender Rhodes to new places. (Out Nov. 11) -
Steve Greenlee, The Boston Globe/Boston.com, Nov. 3, 2008

Karayorgis' deft touch on the piano — prominently established on the instrument over a 20-year career span — is, on Betwixt, transposed to that venerable benchmark of 70s jazz-rock (née fusion), the Fender Rhodes. Thanks to something of a renaissance of interest, aided and abetted by musicians re-evaluating both its legacy and continued relevance as a tool of idiosyncratic coloration, Fender's lascivious electric piano is indeed well-suited to Karayorgis' roving fingers. That he's decided for this date, competently assisted by bassist McBride and drummer Newton, to largely abandon the obvious standard tropes and go boldly where few pianists have gone before, makes for an engaging hour-plus of randy, free-wheeling, post-bop funk.

Betwixt, two Karayorgis-penned compositions aside, boasts an unlikely repertoire for the trio to surmount; that they imbue the twelve numbers with robust enthusiasm and an obvious respect for their leader's well-attuned directives maintains the quickening pulse throughout, regardless of tempo shifts. Karayorgis corrals some of the biggies — Monk, Sun Ra, Ellington, Shorter — if only to graft new Fenders on their rugged chassis. Karayorgis' keyboard brings the funk onboard immediately by opening with Monk's chestnut "Green Chimneys"; though not a by-rote reading — Monk's innate alacrity doesn't translate literally to the Fender's chocolate-coated phraseology, and it doesn't have to — Karayorgis smears a spongy, pretzel logic all over the already knotted melody. On Sun Ra's "Saturn," the keyboardist summons Ra's spirit from the sky, letting flow strange aharmonic/harmolodic space squeals and intergalactic squonks while McBride's bass walks the line and Newton engineers a sprightly gait before blowing out the backbeat for all hell to break loose. Karayorgis makes like Herbie Hancock on the title track, while his other self-penned piece, "Curt's Escape," channels Chick Corea as well, sidestepping nascent fusion's clumsy initial footings for a near-on distorted vamping that pushes the Fender's tones to critical mass.

Word must also be made regarding the Hat Hut label's consistently compelling cover imagery. Utilizing imagistic black and white photography that often brings into relief stark, architectural iconography, the label's forged a distinctive look, once rightly attributed to ECM, that's left it's stylistic forebear in the dust. Betwixt captures a lone seagull caught in a thermal updraft, poised over a bridge girder, an office building skyscraping out of the lower right frame. Much like Karayorgis and crew, arcing through a jazz idiom's stagnant atmosphere, shocking the new.
Darren Bergstein, The Squid's Ear, July 2008 (link)

Over the past two decades, Boston pianist Pandelis Karayorgis has produced a body of subtle revelatory work that extends and reworks the jazz tradition, Whether playing his own originals or abstracbng the compositions of pianists like Monk, Ellington, Sun Ra, and Tristano, he builds improvisational forms rooted in probing explorations of the harmonic and rhythmic underpinnings of the pieces. Karayorgis has put out a number of strong releases in a variety of contexts, from solo to quintet, but some of the best have been in a tno setting. These three, recorded over the last four years, offer up a view of two working trios, both with master bassist Nate McBride.

The trio Mi3 began during a regular series of gigs that McBride hosted at a Boston dive called the Abbey Lounge. The bar didn't have a piano, so Karayorgis hauled along a Fender Rhodes which he patched through a seriies of effects pedals. McBride and Karayorqis were ioined by drummer Curt Newton, whom they both had been playing with for years. Those initial live gigs were captured on We Will Make a Home for You on Clean Feed. On Free Advice (recorded a year later–in 2004), Karayorgis switches to acoustic grand piano, and while the sonorities are different, the trio doesn't lose any of the edgy sensibility of their electric incarnation. Five of the nine tunes are the pianist's originals, rounded out by readings of Ellington's "The Mystery Song" and "Warm Valley," Hasaan Ibn Ali's "Almost Like Me," and Sun Ra's "Ankhnaton." (Why aren't more pianists digging into the small but disfincfive book of "the legendary Hasaan," whose one release with Max Roach is a modernist gem?) The trio constantly toys with harmonic centers and time, movhing the pieces as only a true collective unit can, do. Karayorgis splashes clusters against McBride's stalwart bass, who in turn provides propulsive force and melodic counterpoint to the pianists angular flights.

Newton dances across the drums vvith an edgy sense of time that spills across the phrasing while always keeping a tie to the underlying swing. The pianist's own tunes also stoke some bristling collective interplay, as on the loping blues deconstrucfion "Fink Sink Tink" or the skewed stagger of "Spinach Pie." What makes this music work so well is the way the trio teeters on the edge between swing and freedom.

Carameluia is part of Ayler Records' growing catalog of digital download-only releases. Here, Karayorgis and McBride are joined by drummer Randy Peterson. This trio gigged regularly from 1997 through 2005. Recorded toward the end of their time working together, this set captures them a few months after they returned from a European tour. Karayorgis and McBride provided a new set of originals forthe session, capped off by two collective improvisations. While there is an angular lyricism that carries through all the pieces, time and harmonic structures are stretched even further than on the session above. Karayorgis and McBride hint at themes and then deconstruct them while keeping a tensile connection between conceptualized forms and relaxed swing. Rather than struggling with the dichotomies of tradition and freedom, the three players combine the two with a seemingly effortless directness. Tune titles like "Liwisies," "Liptowthreea," and "Ydidnan" come from words invented by Karayorgis's six-year-old daughter, and that whimsical experimentation carries through to the music. Blues, stride, and Monkian clusters crash up against bounding bass lines and Peterson's restless, shuffling drums. The three can synch up, break off, or play at overlapping odds with each other, only to hit back together with crack precision, often ending pieces mid-phrase with a hanging tension.

The most recent entry, Betwixt, captures Mi3 in an electric setting. The defining sound is Karayogis's Fender Rhodes, which is flayed and refracted by distortion pedal, ring modulator, and filters. The pianist explains in the liner notes that the setup allows him "the option of choosing from a wide array of attacks, timbres, textures, etc., that can become little unexpected musical events in themselves or suggest completely new directions for the music to go in." Oddly enough, this is also the release that dives into jazz tradition the most, the setlist including readings of pieces by Monk, Sun Ra, Ellington, Hasaan, Misha Mengelberg, and Wayne Shorter, along with three of the pianist's originals. The tune choices aren't the obvious ones: Ellington's "Heaven," Monk's "Brake's Sake" and "Humph," and Shorter's "Pinocchio." As on the other two releases, it is the tension between inside and outside that makes this so captivating. Karayorgis's attack and sense of time and phrasing carry through from the acoustic piano to the electric instrument, but he also screws with timbre and sustain to come up with a wholly unique sound. McBride and Newton respond keenly to the pieces' harmonic contours and frayed angularities: they've internalized the tradition and can toss it back, indelibly stamped with their own sensibilities.
Michael Rosenstein, Signal To Noise #52, Winter 2009

Der Pianist Pandelis Karyorgis, der 1962 in Athen geboren wurde und seit 1985 in den USA lebt, bildet einen festen Bestandteil der Bostoner Jazzszene. Er hat schon etwa 20 CD in verschiedensten Besetzungen vorgelegt, darunter mehrere mit dem eigenwilligen Geiger Mat Maneri, und sowohl mit eigenen Kompositionen als auch mit Interpretationen von Lennie Tristano und Thelonious Monk überzeugt. Auf seiner neuen Trio-CD überrascht vor allem seine Wahl des Instruments: Für einmal hat Karyorgis den Konzertflügel mit dem Fender-Rhodes-E-Piano vertauscht, jenem Mitte der 1960er Jahre entwickelten Instrument, das man unweigerlich mit den Fusion-Bands von Miles Davis in Verbindung bringt - und also mit Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul. Der leichte, helle Klang des Instruments ist seither aus dem Jazz, Pop und Soul nicht mehr wegzudenken. Karayorgis erweitert das Ausdrucksspektrum des Instruments durch den Einsatz verschiedener Verzerrer, Filter und Modulatoren. Dennoch bleibt hörbar, dass es sich beim Fender Rhodes um ein elektromechanisches, mithin beseeltes Instrument handelt. Karayorgis benützt es hier, um mit Nate McBride am Bass und Curt Newton am Schlagzeug Stücke von Monk, Ellington, Sun Ra, Wayne Shorter und anderen einzuspielen; auch drei Eigenkompositionen sind dabei. Ein faszinierendes, leicht nostalgisches Album, das den Sound von «Bitches Brew» und «Light as a Feather» aufleben lässt. (pap.)
NZZ am Sonntag 27. Juli 2008 (Neue Zürcher Zeitung)

(5 sterne) Pandelis Karayorgis gehört zu den kreativsten Tasten-künstlern der Jazz-Gegenwart. Sowohl als Pianist, als auch als Keyboarder spaziert Karayorgis mitten durch den Jazz. Teilweise respektvoll und oft natürlich ungewollt, muss sich die Konkurrenz hinten anstellen, denn seine musikalischen Fähigkeiten lassen keine Wünsche offen. Monk, Shorter, Ellington, Mengelberg, Sun Ra und Selbstgeschriebenes lassen die Ohren des aufmerksamen Hörers weit für die modernsten Interpretationen der Musikstücke der oben genannten Jazz Größen aufgehen. Nate McBride (b) und Curt Newton (dr) sind die musikalischen Weggefährten für eine spannende Wanderung durch den Jazz, der bei Karayorgis so viele Wege bereithält dass er noch hunderte Kilometer weit auf unbetretenen Jazzpfaden forschen und Plätze entdecken kann. (bak)
Jazz Zeit, Nov 2008 (www.jazzzeit.at)

Il trio formato dal pianista Pandelis Karayorgis, dal bassista Nat McBride e dal batterista Curt Newton aveva già lasciato intravedere nell’album We Will Make a Home For You, registrato dal vivo nel 2005, le grandi potenzialità di questa formula sposata con la scelta di Karayorgis di lasciare da parte il pianoforte acustico (col quale ha costruito una ormai pluridecennale carriera di ottimo pianista di jazz d’avanguardia, proveniente dalla scuola di Paul Bley) a favore di un fumantino Fender Rhodes, strumento elettrico ma analogico, grumoso, guizzante, carico di grandi potenzialità anche da un punto di vista timbrico e ritmico.
In questo eccellente album registrato in studio, Karayorgis utilizza il Fender Rhodes senza alcuna remora, aggiungendo alcuni effetti d’epoca come il Mutron e il Ring Modulator che danno corpo e scatenano ulteriori sorprese. Il risultato è straordinario, la musica sembra essere plasmata in una fucina primordiale dove tutto è ancora in via di definizione e niente viene dato per scontato. Il trio affronta alcuni brani originali e molte cover con grinta, determinazione e fantasia. I quattro brani di Thelonius Monk escono da questo trattamento come trasfigurati, eppure funzionano perfettamente, come se fossero stati scritti proprio avendo in mente questo setting. Lo stesso si può dire delle altre cover, con particolare menzione per quella insolita “Hypochristmutreefuzz” che era stata scritta da un giovanissimo Misha Mengelberg per essere poi registrata da Eric Dolphy in una delle sue ultime uscite dal vivo documentate su disco.
Nat McBride e Curt Newton dimostrano di essere una sezione ritmica pressoché perfetta per assecondare le escursioni scoppiettanti di Pandelis Karayorgis e questo trio dimostra di respirare all’unisono come se ci trovassimo di fronte ad una entità organica ben definita e proteiforme. L’atmosfera è fortemente elettrica, piena di zaffate solforose e bagliori minacciosi: sembra di essere capitati nell’anticamera di Belzebù mentre gli arcangeli fanno le prove per il prossimo rave party. Non fatevi sfuggire l’occasione di partecipare.
Visita il sito di Pandelis Karayorgis.
Valutazione: 4.5 stelle
Maurizio Comandini, All About Jazz Italia, 25 August 2008
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Nærværende anmeldelse drejer sig om 3 udgivelser med de sammen kunstnere. På 2 af dem ("We will make a home for you" og "Free advice") kalder trioen sig for MI3 og på den sidste nyeste udgivelse kalder de sig for deres regulære navne. De tre musikere der har spillet sammen i mange år i forskellige konstellationer, siden 2002 i denne, er Pandelis Karayorgis på piano og Fender Rhodes, Nate McBride på bas og Curt Newton på trommer. Det første man bemærker, når man starter en af disse cd'er, er det imponerende, tighte og hurtige sammenspil samt interaktionen musikerne imellem, fra første sekund står det klart at her tale om noget særligt. Den første udgivelse fra 2005 "We will make a home for you" indeholder 4 numre komponeret af Theolonious Monk - prøv lige at forestille jer hvordan det er at lytte til de gamle klassiske numre udsat for Fender Rhodes, genialt og sindsygt medrivende :-). På trioens anden udgivelse "Free advice" er Fender Rhodes orgelet blevet udskiftet med et piano, en udskiftning der efter min mening rykker trioen en tak ned af og gør det knap så interessant. Tag endelig ikke fejl, de har stadig en gnist og nerve som gør denne cd særdeles spændende og en interessant lytteoplevelse, men det er ligesom det sidste mangler for at rykke denne udgivelse op i superligaen. På den sidste udgivelse, som lige er kommet fra trykken "Betwixt" er Fender Rhodes orgelet på banen igen til stor fryd for denne anmelder. Dette instrument gør at musikken får en helt specielt coolness, som man ikke oplever ret mange andre steder. Alle 3 udgivelser præsenterer lytteren, for en utrolig selvsikker stil der er en sand fornøjelse at lytte til. Nate McBride's overlegne basspil bærer musikken frem med et drive som mange andre bassister kunne lære meget af, Curt Newton følger overlegent trop og matcher perfekt og Pandelis Karayorgis holder sammen på det hele med sine flotte vedkommende solier og et overskud der er imponerende. Her behøves ingen moderne elektroniske hjælpemidler - overlegent spil og talent klarer det fint alene. Denne trio er noget af de mest interessante jeg har lagt øre til i lang tid og jeg giver dem hermed min anbefaling med på vejen
Henrik Kaldahl, Jazznet Denmark
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Dès l'ouverture du disque, c'est rétro à souhait avec Green Chimneys de Monk; pourtant, on se demande si le voyage de plus d'une heure ne sera pas lassant ... Le son du piano Fender Rhodes est si saisissant, si particulier, qu'on a beau le trouver charmant, mais le doute persiste. Puis arrive Saturn de Sun Ra, et il est clair qu'il y a là quelque chose de plus costaud. Pandelis Karayorgis, qui troque ici le piano pour cet instrument à la fois si jeune et si ... daté, semble bwaucoup s'amuser à reprendre des pièces de Monk, de Wayne Shorter ou du grand Duke ... Le piano électrique donne une impression de légèreté à ces enchaînements de rythmes et des sons. Le bassiste Nate McBride et Curt Newton à la batterie arrivent à encadrer, accompagner ou appuyer au besoin (et avec brio aussi) dans la douzaine d'interprétations et de compositions originales inscrites au programme. Au bout du compte, on comprend que cet instrument, qui a connu ses heures de gloire il y a 30 ans, demeure encore pertinent de nos jours, du moins dans les mains des plus audacieux.
Annie Landreville, La Scena Musicale, Novembre 2008 (www.scena.org)

Liner notes by Art Lange
There’s no doubt that choice of instrument affects the essence of any music we hear. The parameters of sound—tonal qualities, color, texture—determine the music’s identity as much as do pitch, rhythm, and organization. Thus, for just one example, the vigorous, persistent debate over whether the modern piano should be used in performing 17th and early 18th century keyboard works—music that was composed on, and for, either the harpsichord or the clavichord. Purists assert that the nature of the intended instrument, whether the metallic, inflexible, string-plucked tone of the harpsichord, or the clavichord’s softer, nuanced, string-struck intimacy, influenced the compositional choices made by Bach, say, or Scarlatti (the two most important Baroque keyboard composers), and thus their music is inevitably distorted when voiced using the variety of dynamics, colors, and pedaled effects available on a modern piano.

According to reputable sources, Bach disliked the flawed first version of the forte-piano invented in his lifetime; his favorite keyboard (apart from the organ, a mini-orchestra in itself) was the clavichord because, within limits, it allowed dynamics and tone to be manipulated by the performer’s touch, something not possible on the harpsichord. But as the quiet, subtle clavichord was not suited for public performances, especially in combination with other instruments, he tried to overcome the harpsichord’s tonal limitations by using instruments with more than one keyboard—the second lower in volume and set to project different tonal qualities—and also helping to develop a harpsichord with a sound that closer resembled the lute. On the other hand, despite the revival of interest in these particular period instruments and performance practices, the primary trend of 20th century performers, especially those who helped to popularize Bach’s music, from Edwin Fischer to Glenn Gould (Wanda Landowska notwithstanding), has been precisely to take advantage—each from their own interpretive perspective—of the modern piano’s broader range of qualities, inauthentic as they may be, in part because of the comfortable familiarity contemporary audiences have with the piano, and in part because of its greater potential for expressive effects.

Jazz—a music which has connections with much Baroque music regarding its rhythmic origins in dance, its frequent adaptation of folk resources, and its capacity for improvisation—has been identified with the piano from the burgeoning days of ragtime, and the legacy of brilliant jazz pianists is enormous and varied. But more than a few jazz pianists have experimented with other keyboard instruments, some as a novelty to surprise listeners, some to seriously explore the effect of new timbres in an improvisational setting. The most popular of these has been the organ—reaching back at least as early as 1928, when Fats Waller played it in his inimitable style on a session with the Louisiana Sugar Babies. Waller reportedly liked nothing better (aside from hedonistic pleasures, that is) than to rhapsodize mood pieces and punch out swing riffs at the oversized console of a full church organ—however lumbering the result. His protégé, Count Basie, was also fond of the instrument and featured it sporadically throughout his career. Meanwhile, proponents like Milt Buckner and Wild Bill Davis anticipated the explosion that Jimmy Smith ignited in the 1950s which, inspiring a legion of followers, shot the organ—especially as an r&b/funk-jazz vehicle—into its present day status.

Even more curious and provocative, although less successful, were attempts to reverse the neo-Baroque trend of updating instrumentation, by using the harpsichord. One such treatment found Johnny Guarnieri on harpsichord as part of Artie Shaw’s 1940 Gramercy Five recordings, but the dated effect was stylistically at odds with the small combo’s sophisticated swing. More appropriately, boogie specialist Meade Lux Lewis recorded a suite of four “Variations on a Theme” on harpsichord for Blue Note Records in 1941, where the music’s exuberant right hand filigree and interplay between bass and melody lines benefited from the instrument’s prickly, pointillist, crisp clarity and reconciled boogie-woogie counterpoint with its Baroque antecedents. A few months earlier, on a soon-famous session under the leadership of clarinetist Edmund Hall, with bassist Israel Crosby and Charlie Christian on acoustic guitar, Lewis played celesta (a tinkling keyboard which substitutes metal bars for strings—think Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies”), but the sound of the instrument lacks the sinew necessary to support Lewis’ powerful touch. Likewise over the years many other jazz pianists, from Dick Hyman to Andrew Hill, have dabbled with the harpsichord or celesta for a change in color, though the results have seldom been memorable. At least when Keith Jarrett improvised on clavichord, he avoided jazz inflections and offered a sympathetic adaptation of Baroque phrasing.

Another, even rarer, use of an unusual keyboard was Earl Hines’ 1939 recording of “Body and Soul’ and “Child of a Disordered Brain” on the Storytone piano—an experimental electric keyboard which had no resonating soundboard, but instead amplified the strings with magnetic pickups. By the 1950s, however, Wurlitzer had developed a functional electric piano, occasionally used by even Duke Ellington, among others, for exotic tonalities—but by far its best and most imaginative exploitation was by Sun Ra, who was already on the prowl for cosmic sonorities. It wasn’t until the Fender Rhodes came to prominence in the late ‘60s, heralded by Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Joe Zawinul on Miles Davis’ audience-jolting jazz-fusion sessions Filles de Kilimanjaro, In A Silent Way, and Bitches Brew—and quickly thereafter a defining characteristic of their own separate fusion bands—that the electric piano gained a permanent identity and recognizable context as a jazz instrument. Though its prestige has lessened since its almost ubiquitous position in the ‘70s, the sound of the Fender Rhodes remains a prominent, if somewhat nostalgic, resonating echo in jazz.

By which leisurely, circuitous route we arrive at the disc at hand—not to suggest that Pandelis Karayorgis’ approach to the Fender Rhodes electric piano, or this compatible trio’s music, owes any debt to fusionoid forebears. Over the course of nearly 20 years and approximately that many recordings, Karayorgis has established himself as one of the singular, and significant, pianists of his generation. One of his trademarks has been to examine and illuminate the irregular edges of the jazz piano repertoire, as he does here—not just tunes associated with early influences like Tristano or Monk (who appear on almost everyone’s résumé these days) but, in this case, material from the likes of legendary Philadelphia recluse Hassan Ibn Ali, Dutch dada master Misha Mengelberg, and Promethean sound-shifter Sun Ra—along with original pieces that venture into peripheral terrain. Another trait is his broad and bracing musical sensibility: an acute concentration on melodic contour, sometimes linear and chromatic (via Tristano), other times craggy and abstract (from Monk), reinforced by a harmonic foundation that draws upon not only the aforementioned resources, and of course Ellington too, but also Hindemith, Scriabin, and Berg. But there’s an unexpected ingredient in the mix of Betwixt—his choice of instrument.

For this program, Karayorgis has chosen the vintage Fender Rhodes, while, crucially, further enhancing its electric idiosyncrasies with the addition of a mutron (a synthesizer-like sound filter once endorsed by Stevie Wonder), distortion pedal, and ring modulator (a favorite of Stockhausen, which blends sound signals into dissimilar, often dissonant, frequencies) to divorce it from its previous associations. As he related to me, “Filtering the sound through various devices offers the option of choosing from a wide array of attacks, timbres, textures, etc, that can become little unexpected musical events in themselves or suggest completely new directions for the music to go in. … All this would not be the same on a modern electronic synthesizer keyboard. The Rhodes produces its sound via mechanical elements (little hammers strike metal tines whose sound is then amplified individually just like the six strings of an electric guitar) and therefore each note has somewhat different attributes (attack, decay, timbre) and its own unique imperfections (false harmonics among them). This creates a sound that does not come off as artificial, even though it is processed electronically, but rather as colorful, real, and funky.”

By choosing an instrument that differs from his accustomed acoustic piano in both method of sound production and technique required to play it, Karayorgis is here doing what Bach did, composing (spontaneously—though Bach too was a renown improviser) in response to the specific qualities of the instrument at hand. The altered perspectives which Karayorgis brings—and to which bassist Nate McBride and drummer Curt Newton must intuitively and actively respond—differ in degree throughout the program. In some pieces, like the title track and “Brake’s Sake,” the keyboard crunches and wails like an electric guitar, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s extravagant attacks, or the dazzlingly percussive acoustic fingerpicking of Rev. Gary Davis. Elsewhere, say “Humph” and “Hypochristmutreefuzz,” it implies a kind of orchestration, dramatically expanding the tonal palette, thus refocusing the song’s atmosphere and mood. There’s certainly a playful echo of Sun Ra’s galaxial squawk from time to time. And then there are those places, perhaps “Pinocchio” and the fantasy on “Heaven,” where instrumental color and texture no longer affect the music, but become the primary force of communication. Regardless of the distancing effect this may have from the “traditional” piano trio, McBride and Newton adapt their roles to the circumstances, with restraint, allowing space for the keyboard colors to emerge; weight, as rhythmic anchor; and their own colors, as the way bow and brushes resolve “Off My Back Jack.”

Whether it’s Bach or Monk, played on harpsichord or harmonica (…well, maybe not harmonica, how about tuba?)—musicianship, imagination, and taste will make the music sing.

Art Lange, Chicago, November 2007





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