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>Pandelis Karayorgis Trio:
>Blood Ballad



Blood Ballad
Pandelis Karayorgis Trio
Leo Records CD LR 325, 2001
More info (from Leo)

Pandelis Karayorgis, piano
Nate McBride, bass
Randy Peterson, drums

Recorded April 2000

available on Bandcamp

PK Trio page

1. In the Cracks of Four
(P. Karayorgis) 6:05
2. Blood Ballad
(P. Karayorgis) 6:29
3. Coming Out of Nothing
(P. Karayorgis) 7:00
4. Ask
(P. Karayorgis) 8:20
5. Stomp on One
(P. Karayorgis) 4:36
6. Tomorrow Was
(P. Karayorgis) 6:55
7. Centennial
(P. Karayorgis) 5:44
8. Don't Ask
(P. Karayorgis) 3:48
9. One Up, One Down
(John Coltrane) 6:06


Blood Ballad was chosen by three reviewers among their top picks for 2001:
* Jon Morgan in Coda Magazine (The Coda Top Tens of 2001).
* Russell Carlson in JazzTimes (Top 5 CDs in Critics' Picks 2001).
* Sakis Papadimitriou in Jazz&TZAZ magazine.

I 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. ...

If your Karayorgis budget only extends to buying one album this time round, the one to go for is "Blood Ballad", recorded in April 2000 and following on from the excellent "Heart And Sack" (Leo Lab 048). The word "organic" comes to mind listening to Karayorgis's solo on "Coming Out of Nothing" - the suppleness of the rhythm section (McBride's meaty bass perfectly counterpointed by Randy Peterson's flexible drumming) allowing the pianist to follow his ideas wherever they lead him, Mengelberg-like (including several Misha-esque excursions down mysterious melodic back alleys). While "Heart and Sack" included devastating readings of 1960s Prestige gems by Ken McIntyre and Eric Dolphy, the bona fide cover version on this album is the final track, Coltrane's "One Up, One Down" (shouldn't that be "One Down, One Up"?). If the sixties are never far away, this album also looks further back to Ellington and Strayhorn: the title track is a homage to the latter, while "Centennial" - definitely my selection for Best Ballad of the year, in case anyone asks - looks at the Duke's "Frustration" through a melodic/harmonic kaleidoscope, with ravishing results.
Dan Warburton, www.paristransatlantic.com and Signal To Noise

Pandelis Karayorgis is a stealthy pianist. The gist of his music is often only implied, especially when he employs the slow and medium-slow tempi that dominate Blood Ballad. A phrase trails off into silence; a sustained note lingers like fog; a chord is blown out like a candle. Such moments mix slowburn jazz noir intensity and a tentative, even fumbling vulnerability with unerring cogency. While Karayorgis's surfaces invite comparisons with Ran Blake and Misha Mengelberg, melancholy undercurrents of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn give the album much of its emotional impetus. Remotely related to Ellington's "Frustration", "Centennial" veers from alluring, bluesy lines to the faux awkwardness of phrases voiced in seconds to create a subtle emotional tension. The Strayhorn inspired title piece teeters between tenderness and desolation, its theme thick with sighs and gasps. Both tracks are fine starting points for examining the sensitive interplay of Karayorgis, bassist Nate McBride and drummer Randy Peterson. If you thought the jazz piano trio format had atrophied long ago, think again.

On No Such Thing, Karayorgis, McBride and Ken Vandermark, who is heard here mainly on clarinets, mesh the agenda of Jimmy Giuffre's classic early 60s trio with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow, and Karayorgis's abiding interest in Lennie Tristano's expanded sense of form and tonality. However, their materials extend far beyond the 'soft jazz' Giuffre articulated on his trio's LPs for Verve and Columbia.

Vandermark's "Skid Into The Turn" opens the set with the bristling staccato shapes commonly associated with Anthony Braxton's music of the 70s. Even when a gentler attack and hints of a walking tempo hold sway, as on Karayorgis's "SBL", the thematic materials have an acute angularity that makes Giuffre's music quaint by comparison. Additionally, Karayorgis, McBride and Vandermark also delve into spry neo cool on such rewarding tracks as McBride's "27 Valentine" and Vandermark's "Let Me Know", the latter benefiting from the composer's smoldering tenor On these tracks, Karayorgis's study of Tristano's music is most readily apparent in his rhythm, which is effortlessly smooth despite choppy accents and dense voicings; and, like Tristano, he uses rhythm to stir his cohorts.
Bill Shoemaker, The Wire, October 2001

Takase, Karayorgis and Wodrascka are all firm-handed pianists who take jazz seriously. The first two owe something two Monk -- who doesn't? -- but their languages are quite different despite some superficial similarities;


Pandelis Karayorgis is a no less smart player. His clever uses of dissonance impressed in Heart and Sack and continue to do so here. Inspired by the Strayhorn/Ellington book, and covering a Coltrane tune, he's in even more mainstream jazz territory here than he was on his previous release, and this is music which many who find most of Leo's catalogue a little intimidating will be able to get along with grandly.

That's certainly not to say it's a lightweight set, however. Karayorgis is a pianist not to be underestimated; his fractured, Monk-like logic is absolutely right and the uneasy conjunction of rather sentimental hard bop with jagged angles is constantly arresting. He seems to think his way through each solo, making weird but valid deductions from the basic harmonic scheme. Indeed, the extent of such a scheme or the degree of composition is not clear, because the trio's playing is sure-footed but oblique throughout.
As for McBride and Peterson, they mainly hold back and provide support for the pianist -- a welcome improvement over the loud "Heart and Sack" set, which sounds ragged by comparison. Both are consummately tasteful, and although their contributions are essential they're appropriately understated. The focus here is on Karayorgis, and anyone who enjoys jazz piano would be wise to hear what he has to say.
Richard Cochrane, Musings

Let's get straight to the point: this is an impressive record. Enjoyable and satisfying too. Karayorgis' chops are undoubtedly robust, as he proves up front with the vaguely Cecil Taylorish "Cracks", but what holds the attention overall is the air of deep thoughtfulness. Sorry to lapse into the old "sounds like" routine, but it saves time and wordage, and making a comparison with Paul Bley, particularly the ESP sessions, gives a fair idea of what to expect. The title track seems to suggest a link - Bley performed Annette Peacock's "Blood" many times but is, in fact, a tribute to Billy Strayhorn, the reference being to "Blood Count" I guess. As it happens, several titles have the Bley flavor, though some could equally well be by Monk, another well-absorbed and creatively transformed influence.

Like Bley, Karayorgis may tend to the reflective and introspective but never forgets to communicate or convey emotion. Phrases well up and demand attention, sometimes almost gabbled in Karayorgis' eagerness to get them out whilst they are fresh in his mind. He will then lay the melody out for more detailed and leisurely consideration. The conversational feel of much of the improvisation carries over to the transition between tracks: they will have been recorded some while apart and no doubt in a different order, but several times it sounds as if one tune ends and another begins because a more pressing topic pops into Karayorgis' mind, like talking about something on the news and then saying, "while I remember, guess who I saw today?" This gives a real organic feel to the unfolding of the improvisations.

"Centennial" is an homage to Ellington, and is, Karayorgis says, very loosely connected to Ellington's "Frustration': "Tomorrow Was" ups the temperature, moving through a skewed bop passage evoking the great Bud Powell before hurtling into more abstract territory. Time and again Karayorgis demonstrates the ability, like Monk and Taylor (and Ellington), to exploit the percussive potential of the piano whilst honoring the richness of its resonance and the range of its colors. Coltrane's "One Up", the only track not composed by Karayorgis, gets a fiercely physical workout, then ends this superb album by simply and surprisingly evaporating. On]y just room to acknowledge the stalwart and responsive contributions of McBride and Peterson.
Barry Witherden, JazzReview

Blood Ballad doesn't make such an immediate impact, maybe because Pandelis Karayorgis is a less Iyrical player, and the chords he uses are altogether more pungent and less directional than those used by Takase. His syntax is knottier, too. Sometimes it's a little difficult to determine what he's getting at. That's only a problem if you want music that makes no demands on you as a listener, that sets out to do nothing but ingratiate. Karayorgis promises, and delivers, more than that. This is his fourth album for Leo, the second with this tightly knit, well-balanced trio. I remember giving the trio's first CD release, Heart and Sack, a very favorable write-up in an earlier edition of Avant. My good opinion of the disc hasn't changed, and I suspect that Blood Ballad will also stand the test of time.

Monk is obviously as important to Karayorgis as he is to Takase, but Lennie Tristano's recontextualised melodies, and his use of pulse, can occasionally be detected on Blood Ballad. I must stress that Karayorgis (Takase, too, for that matter) doesn't merely ape his heroes, he absorbs elements of their music into his own and always makes something new. There are a couple of direct references to the Strayhorn/Ellington axis, and a gnarled and nagging version of Coltrane's 'One Up, One Down'. Drummer Randy Peterson and double bass player Nate McBride gravitate around the themes, and the statements they make fit well with Karayorgis's rather introspective playing style. This is the kind of trio that makes you think jazz is still a growing music, a music with great potential.
Brian Marley, Avant

Pandelis Karayorgis ist ein junger Pianist aus Boston, der über Kooperationen mit Mat Maneri und Ken Vandermark bekannt wurde. „Blood Ballad“ ist die zweite Veröffentlichung seines Trios (mit Nate McBride und Randy Peterson). Karayorgis, der wiederholt in eine (überraschende und zu kurz greifende) Verbindungslinie mit Monk und Tristano gestellt wurde, nennt Billy Strayhorn eine Inspirationsquelle für diese CD. Tatsächlich gelingt es dem Trio als Trio, das historisch überdeterminierte und oft totgesagte Format eckig, widerständig, aber auch mellow und lyrisch weiterzuführen.
Markus Müller, Jazz thing 41

Boston-based pianist Pandelis Karayorgis plays rippling, harmonically-ambiguous lines replete with blues and self-reflection. His accompanists—bassist Nate McBride and drummer Randy Peterson—are longtime associates of both the Maneris and Joe Morris, and they confirm Karayorgis as the leading pianist in their vein of inquisitive, cerebral, yet pretty jazz.

Because of limited dynamics and lack of emphatic melodies or peaks, one listens for the interstitial interactions between the musicians rather than the total shape, and these are incredibly sensitive and poised. People who find Paul Bley's recent work 'samey' should check this out. BW A:1
Ben Watson, Hi-Fi News, November 2001

***(*) (…) the reconvened trio that captures the attention on Blood Ballad. It's a tighter and more organized album than the first, and there are no reference points apart from the closing version of Coltrane's 'One Up, One Down', which might be taken from a Marilyn Crispell session were it not so punchy and Monkian. The opening sequence of 'In The Cracks Of Four' and 'Blood Ballad' probably represents Pandelis's best moments on record and a very good place to start exploring his music.
From “The Penguin Guide To Jazz Recordings,” By Richard Cook and Brian Morton, 8th Edition (2006)

Familier de l'univers Maneri, le pianiste Pandelis Karayorgis abandonne ici les rêches chemins de la microtonalité au profit d'un jazz posé et nuancé. Une fois acceptée la remarquable maitrîse du trio, I'on ne pourra qu'admirer les libertés prises par Karayorgis, Bride et Peterson. Les espaces d'abord (Blood Ballad, Comin Out Of Nothing), ici s'échafaude avec force et détermination une improvisation faite d'économie de gestes et de maglufiques silences régénérateurs. Le blues ensuite; invisible puis réinventé dans Ask, il se conjugue en désarticulé dans Stomp On One; le jeu de Peterson, admirable de retenue et d'inventivité, prouvant que l'esclavagisme rythmique n'est pas une fatalité et qu'ici tout peut encore se construire. Le lien enfin, celui qui a à voir (et à entendre) avec la présence et l’esprit, le swmg intérieur, celui qui ne peut exister et se développer qu'avec la nécessaire et indispensable complicité. Et puis il y a cette reprise du One Up, One Down de Coltrane, cette géométrie cellulaire qui n'est pas sans nous évoquer celle de Cecil Taylor et cette possible liaison Elvin Peterson; les mêmes résonances et les mêmes roulements termmaux: Magnifique photo de pochette par ailleurs.
Luc Bouquet, Improjazz, Decembre 2001 [view original]


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