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>Karayorgis/Smith/Rosenthal Trio






Karayorgis/Smith Rosenthal Trio
Driff Records 1803, 2018

Pandelis Karayorgis, piano
Damon Smith, bass
Eric Rosenthal, drums

available on Bandcamp


1 Trio 1 9:05
2 Trio 2 18:57
3 Trio 3 12:17
4 Trio 4 11:22

Total time 51:41



The dazzling piano trios of Pandelis Karayorgis and Sam Harris
Every year as I feebly compile a list of my favorite albums I experience plenty of ridiculous anxiety, trying to cram my ears full of releases I'd only previously skimmed or missed altogether. Of course, after such a list is finished such records start making an impression upon me, and this time was no exception. A handful of superb piano trios were among the things that occupied a bunch of listening time as the year wound down, and they didn't make an appearance because I had pretty much solidified my choices. So I'm here to give them some warranted attention.

I've long been a fan of Boston pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, a deeply thoughtful improviser who's always deftly and imaginatively braided influences from the past like Lennie Tristano and Ran Blake with contemporary ideas, whether from modern classical music or abstract free improv. Living in Chicago provided lots of exposure to his playing through his connections to players like Ken Vandermark, Guillermo Gregorio, and Nate McBride, among others; Karayorgis has been involved in many groups and configurations with locals across the years. In 2018 the label he operates with reedist Jorrit Dijkstra, Driff, dropped two terrific trio recordings made with different rhythm sections and different modus operandi.

Cliff features four extended improvisations recorded in June of last year with bassist Damon Smith--who moved to Boston a few years ago--and drummer Eric Rosenthal, a percussionist who's worked with the pianist for several decades. The music churns with a very organic kind of ebb-and-flow, seething and simmering within a narrow space as much as it trudges and leaps forward. The players reveal a deeply interactive methodology that avoids reactive procedures. As you can hear for yourself on the opening piece "Trio 1," below, there are dynamically wild swings in terms of pace and density. Spontaneous phrases are dissected, passed around from instrument to instrument or parsed all at once; this musician or that go profoundly, temporarily silent; Karayorgis inserts a terse chunk of melody or embarks on a linear jag that gives a performance a more concrete sensibility only to morph into something far more elusive. Energy accelerates and recedes, like breath, but the proceedings neither embrace inchoate fury or sleepy inertia--there's always refined activity at play, allowing the listener to sit in on some very subtle dialogues.

A month later the pianist paired-up with bassist McBride and drummer Luther Gray for an informal house session to make the music on Pools (notice the Steve Lacy-like titling aesthetic on these albums), this time grappling with a slate of original tunes--in addition to a group improvisation and a loose blues. I will admit I prefer Karayorgis in this context a bit more, if only because I love his elegantly sprawling, slow-moving themes--even the all-improvised "Last One" clings to some pretty intangible shapes, driven by an inexorable sense of forward motion. On a deliciously fragile tune such as "Entanglement" a gently distended melody is draped over an elastic groove that's in perpetual flux, with changing rhythmic accents, spasms of bass notes, and sudden jacked-up swing patterns; it gives the pianist a vast canvas to splatter sound, including hushed, glassy constellations and frenetic, left-handed runs that suggest early Cecil Taylor. On "allbyitself" the pianist recalls Paul Bley's penchant for spreading notes over a crawling pace--a jagged rhythmic skeleton carved out by McBride and Gray--with painterly grace and concision, mixing things up well-placed chord sequences. Below you can check out the opening piece, the vaguely Monk-ish "Roil."

Peter Margasak, January 30, 2019, link


Pandelis Karayorgis / Damon Smith / Eric Rosenthal - Cliff (Driff Records, 2018) ****
Pandelis Karayorgis and drummer Eric Rosenthal share a long musical relationship dating back to the early nineties. For this session they are joined by double bass player Damon Smith who has recently relocated to the Boston area and has played with both several times over the past couple of years. Cliff captures their first, free-improvised encounter as a trio on a hot July day in Cambridge. Karayorgis was in charge of the recording, mixing and the cover art.

The four extended pieces explore different aspects of a resourceful improvising unit dynamics as density, energy, timbre and palette of sounds, tension building and release, texture and pulse. From the first second of this session, this trio sounds as willing to take more and more risks, literally - as if it hangs from a huge cliff. Karayorgis and Rosenthal completes each other gestures in a fast and muscular flow, and often both play as a tight, organic unit.

Smith adds a subversive dimension to this session. He refuses to follow or intensify any pulse, loose as it may be. He insists on confronting and sometimes even provoking the immediate interplay of Karayorgis and Rosenthal with his inventive suggestions -including a total different perspective of this trio syntax and harmonic possibilities - articulated with masterful, extended bowing techniques and rich palette of deep-toned sounds. The tension that Smith introduces to the interplay keeps this trio from falling down from the adventurous cliffs it has explored.

Eyal Hareuveni, Thursday, January 17, 2019 link

Athens-born, Boston-based pianist Pandelis Karayorgis for instance, who has worked with players like Steve Swell and Mat Maneri, uses the four tracks on Cliff for open-ended improvisations. The pianist’s strategies range from rapid ringing chords in a Free Jazz-like fashion to more ruminative hunt-and-peck creations, and he’s easily partnered with locals, bassist Damon Smith and drummer Eric Rosenthal, who have equivalent exploratory music experience. Kinetic, the speedy “Trio 1” melds into high-level connections, sweeping glissandi that frequently dip into the lowest registers of the piano, with sympathetic bowing and plucking from the bassist and low-key rumbles from the drummer. In fact when the turnaround leads to near static tones, this is easily taken in stride. This sort of dynamic affinity continues throughout the other selections, with unexpected action from each player promptly recognized and modified to fit the narratives. Rosenthal’s finesse in moving from percussion crunches to near inaudible tones get a proper airing on “Trio 4”, as his rhythm encourages piano key clips and pecks to speed the exposition, further amplified with note splays plus up-to-the scroll string strumming from Smith. Eventually the others’ output wriggles downwards to join with the drummer’s hushed beat variables. Ricocheting from speedy to slow narratives with broken octave replications, the three work sudden sound eruptions, silent pauses and patterning interludes into the program. The nearly 19-minute “Trio 2” is the lengthiest example of this. Initially introspective with contorted, Monk-like detours, half-way through Karayorgis’ concise chromatic flow moves from pointillist connection to bellicose challenges. Keyboard sways, sul ponticello double bass thumps and percussion cracks disrupt the improvisation, until the ending relaxes into a spinning climax of multiple bumps and thumps.
Ken Waxman April 17, 2019, Jazz Word.com

Zweimal im Klaviertrio präsentiert sich Pianist Pandelis Karayorgis. Pools bringt ihn mit Nate McBride am Bass und Schlagzeuger Luther Gray zusammen. Gespielt werden sechs Karayorgis-Kompositionen, eine freie Improvisation und ein ebenso imorovisierter Blues. Karayorgis ergeht sich in umfasseder Chromatik, sowohl horizontal als auch vertikal, hat eine Vorliebe für vertrackte Linien. Man agiert von minimalistisch bis expansiv, von kontemplativ zurückhaltend bis heftiger, interessiert sich unter anderem für bewegliche rhythmische Patterns, ist auch einmal recht verspielt. McBride und Gray sind elastische Kollaboratoren.

Auf Cliff ist Karayorgis mit Bassist Damon Smith und Drummer Eric Rosenthal zu hören, und zwar in vier Improvisationen etwas größeren Umfangs. Dabei ist gleich ohrenfällig, dass sich Karayorgis und Rosenthal musikalisch bereits sehr gut kennen. Smith nimmt hingegen öfters einmal eine besondere, wenn man will, konfrontative Rolle ein, seine Mitspieler mit seinen, auch - hervorragend - gestrichenen, Beiträgen herausfordernd. Das ergibt eine intersessante Trio-Konstellation von einiger Frische. Die dabei entstehende Musik weist eine weite dynamische Bandbreite auf. Man arbeitet mit einer umfangreichen texturalen Palette von unterschiedlichster Dichte, versteht es, Spannung aufzubauen, aber bei Bedarf auch wieder zurückzunehmen, ist stark im Lyrischen wie in der virtuosen Attacke. Zweimal qualtitativ hochstehendes Klaviertrio auf der Höhe der Zeit. Wenn ich wählen müsste, würde ich mich aber für die lockerere und letztlich buntere Klippe entscheiden. (bertl)
FreiStil Magazin (Austria), Feb 2019

Petit portrait du label de Boston
Parmi les labels aux sorties épisodiques, dont la tâche principale est d’accompagner les productions d’un ou de plusieurs musiciens, Driff Records, label basé à Boston, a déjà eu l’occasion de se distinguer. Géré depuis 2012 par Jorrit Dijkstra, un saxophoniste batave installé aux USA et Pandelis Karayorgis, un pianiste du Massachusetts originaire de Grèce. Leur volonté : proposer de « l’improvisation transatlantique ». Avec pour cela une figure tutélaire : Steve Lacy, qui est le sujet de The Whammies, le groupe qui réunit les deux artistes.

Car avant d’accueillir Benoît Delbecq en compagnie de Jorrit Dijkstra, le pianiste et le saxophoniste ont lancé le label avec un sextet où ils se réunissaient entre autres avec Jeb Bishop ou Han Bennink ; une esthétique qui doit tout autant au célèbre soprano qu’à des orchestres comme L’ICP. The Whammies, c’est évidemment le nom d’un disque avec Steve Potts, mais c’est aussi en trois volumes l’une des plus belles explorations de l’œuvre de Lacy, où Dijkstra et Karayorgis mènent les débats collectivement.

Pandelis Karayorgis fait parler de lui depuis de nombreuses années, d’abord en participant aux expériences proches de la musique contemporaine de Guillermo Gregorio avec Mat Maneri. Davantage rompu au travail du quintet, où on le retrouvait déjà en compagnie du contrebassiste Nate McBride dans le célébré System of 5, Karayorgis esquisse depuis quelque temps une réflexion sur le trio. D’abord en compagnie de McBride et Curt Newton à la batterie chez HatHut, puis avec Luther Gray en remplacement de Newton sur Driff Records, avec un Pools très référentiel. Un orchestre ou le pianiste laisse beaucoup de place à sa base rythmique, à l’image de « Entanglements » qui s’ouvre sur la belle musicalité du contrebassiste. Karayorgis ne rechigne pas, d’ailleurs, à faire sa part quand il s’agit de laisser de la liberté à ses compagnons. Ainsi « Blues », qui démarre de la plus classique des façons avant de se morceler et d’offrir de nouvelles pistes.

Cliff, avec le contrebassiste Damon Smith (qui évolue habituellement avec Frank Gratkowski ou Joe McPhee) et le batteur Eric Rosenthal, a une approche beaucoup plus improvisée, qui s’embarrasse moins de la pulsation. On est dans cet entre-deux transatlantique désiré par le label, avec une basse qui utilise beaucoup l’archet et fait de chaque son une échappatoire possible. Mais le jeu de Karayorgis, toujours empreint d’un certain classicisme ou d’une grand douceur, distribue la parole davantage qu’il la laisse en totale liberté (« Trio 2 »). Avec ces disques, Driff Records s’offre un véritable panorama qui reflète la belle unité de ses musiciens.
Franpi Barriaux, 3 février 2019, link






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