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>Pandelis Karayorgis Trio



Photos by Tommey Seggers

Pandelis Karayorgis Trio
Driff Records 1302, 2013

Pandelis Karayorgis, piano
Jef Charland, bass
Luther Gray, drums

available on Bandcamp


1 Cocoon
(Karayorgis) 5:37
2 Downed
(Gray) 6:48
3 Idiosynchronicity
(Charland) 4:35
4 You Took My Coffee And Left
(Karayorgis) 5:12
5 Sideways Glance
(Karayorgis) 5:46
6 Settling
(Karayorgis) 9:37
7 Red
(Karayorgis) 5:54
8 Hopscotch
(Charland) 4:04
9 Jabberwocky
(Gray) 6:46
10 Incandescent
(Karayorgis) 6:18

Total time 60:00


With so many projects in the works, where is one to begin in a survey of pianist Pandelis Karayorgis? The Boston-based educator (born in Athens, Greece) is a member of The Whammies (featuringHan Bennink), a sextet formed with Driff Records partner Jorrit Dijkstra to cover the music of Steve Lacy. He also maintains a Chicago Quintet with Dave Rempis, Keefe Jackson, Nate McBride, and Frank Rosaly, and is a member of System of 5, Construction Party, and the Guillermo Gregorio/Pandelis Karayorgis/Steve SwellTrio.

Perhaps the best introduction to his sound is in this trio. Karayorgis has led several variations of a classic jazz trio, first his collaboration with Nate McBride and Randy Peterson, then MI3, with McBride and Curt Newton. The machination of the trio concept on Cocoon teams finds him with bassist Jef Charland and drummer Luther Gray. With respect to his other trios, this one is the best yet.

Karayorgis' music is a blotter for the music of Herbie Nichols, Thelonious Monk, and Andrew Hill. Like these skilled innovators, the signature on these compositions (six out of ten here) is his explanation of swing. The pianist combines the playfulness of Alexander von Schlippenbach with the physicality of Don Pullen to create a slightly unbalanced sound. His self-spun approach on "You Took My Coffee And Left" pairs a stylish swing with a galloping right hand full of notes. With a rhythm section eager to swing along, Karayorgis is free to fly. "Sideways Glance" could easily be mistaken for a Monkian meditation, employing an off-kilter groove to showcase what critics once called "wrong notes," when played by Monk.

Charland and Gray are disposed to the same approach. They can tinker with a time signature, as on "Jabberwocky," or extend the conversation. On "Red," a tromp of a blues, Charland maintains his end of the conversation, with Gray sliding remarks in between. Each piece presented here is a unique take on surreptitious swing.
Mark Corroto, All About Jazz, July 2013 (link)

Earlier this year, following in the footsteps of many of his contemporaries, pianist Pandelis Karayorgis co-founded the Boston-based label Driff Records with multi-instrumentalist Jorrit Dijkstra, in an effort to independently document his own work. Two of the imprint’s most recent releases feature Karayorgis leading fairly conventional groups. Cocoon presents the adventurous keyboardist in a traditional acoustic piano trio setting accompanied by fellow Beantown associates bassist Jef Charland and drummer Luther Gray, while the quintet effort Circuitous highlights Karayorgis’ longstanding connection to the Chicago jazz scene.
A former student of Paul Bley, Karayorgis’ pianism suggests a multitude of post-war influences, ranging from the kinetic dissonances of Cecil Taylor and the thorny counterpoint of Lennie Tristano to the oblique lyricism of Thelonious Monk and the harmonic ingenuity of Andrew Hill. These manifold aspects of his artistry come to the fore in the intimate confines of Cocoon, where he and his trio mates navigate a variety of asymmetrical melodies and odd meters with aplomb. They display tuneful restraint in their subdued renditions of bluesy ballads like “Sideways Glance” and “Red,” simultaneously negotiating the Monkish swagger of “You Took My Coffee And Left” and the jagged angles of “Idiosynchronicity” with graceful élan.
Charland and Gray’s malleable sense of timekeeping seamlessly integrates quasi-rubato pulses, hypnotic ostinatos and intuitive call and response into their affable interplay. They effortlessly transition between abstract musings and driving swing, attentively underpinning Karayorgis’ circuitous cadences, which veer from the pellucid filigrees of the pensive title track to the hammered arpeggios of the blistering opus “Settling.” Subtly recalling past antecedents in their vanguard reinterpretations of classic piano trio tenets, Karayorgis’ longstanding partnership with Charland and Gray has merited widespread critical acclaim; Cocoon is a certifiable document of their enduring, congenial rapport. (…)
Troy Collins, Point Of Departure Issue 44 - September 2013 (link)

A bounty of brilliance from Boston pianist Pandelis Karayorgis

Habitués of this space probably know of my esteem for Boston pianist and composer Pandelis Karayorgis, a musician whose rigorous explorations of the less frequented corners of jazz history have consistently yielded deeply original and compelling new sounds. He's managed to revisit the work of pianists like Lennie Tristano, Herbie Nichols, Elmo Hope, Hassan, and early Cecil Taylor and bring back consistently fresh ideas in all sorts of contexts. Earlier this year he and Boston-based reedist Jorrit Dijkstra launched Driff Records—the label just added four new titles to its catalog, and they have me thinking that this might be the most exciting new jazz label in 2013. (…)

I've had the music from Circuitous for a long while, but since I just got the package from Driff this week I've only heard the excellent new trio outing by Karayorgis a couple of times—still, that's enough to know how good it is. On Cocoon he's supported by bassist Jef Charland and drummer Luther Grey, both of whom contribute a few compositions, although the lion's share are from the leader. It's a much more introspective and quiet affair than Circuitous, but it's equally rewarding and relentlessly swinging. The rhythm section is a lean, agile machine, functioning as the sturdy armature for the pianist's wonderfully jagged, sometimes glassy improvisations. Karayorgis is fond of his instrument's left end, punctuating phrases with brusque bass stabs, but his mastery of harmony—finding unexpected, piquant chords in every conceivable situation—is the thing. I can't say too much more since there's plenty to absorb, but the tunes are sticking to my brain and I'm looking forward to all the revelations contained within. Below you can check out one of the leader's characteristically catchy and knotty tunes, "You Took My Coffee and Left."
Peter Margasak, June 2013 (link)

Of course one of the litmus tests for a modern jazz pianist is the trio configuration. It gives the player a group context that implies some connection with the tradition (at least in the instrumentation of piano, bass and drums) yet exposes his or her way with the pianoforte in a more radical fashion than if horns were involved.

The pianism of Pandelis Karayorgis first got my attention when I was writing for Cadence. Since then I have covered a fair number of his albums. I find him one of the more important and more interesting piano voices out there today.

He recently recorded a new trio outing which we finally get a chance to talk about, namely Cocoon (Driff 1302). I am happy to say that this is another very good one. It involves a three-way confluence between Karayorgis, Jef Charland on bass, and Luther Gray on drums. Karayorgis pens six of the numbers, Gray and Garland each contribute two. They are fine vehicles for the extensive improvisations that follow.

Luther Gray is a great drummer for this kind of date--because he can swing mightily, creatively accentuate any compositional aspects and come up with effective interplay with the other two whatever the context. Jef Charland can walk in ambiguous tonal territory with flair; he solos and interacts with taste and force.

But in many ways this is an ideal showcase for Pandelis and what he is up to. There is still the Monk-like foundation of his touch and an extension of the dissonant advanced comping and percussiveness to a point well on and self-developed. There is the presence of tradition in other ways too. Listen to "You Took My Coffee and Left," a blues, and you'll hear the old and the very new interacting--it's still very much a blues in structure but it takes it all further.

You can hear a bit of the Bley out-in-in harmonic openness, only it's fully Karayorgisized. There are well-placed out block chords, left-handed horn explorations and the split chord-horn left-right mix that you expect in the tradition, but the timing and the choice of notes is impeccable. His rich inventiveness comes through very well here--and that is something to ear-in on! Every solo is a lucid story that doesn't repeat as much as flows with thickly percussive rhythmic thrust and melodic-harmonic inspiration.

Well so this one is what anybody interested in piano trio freedom within the jazz tradition should hear. It is a major addition to the Karayorgis discography, which to me is a fine thing indeed.
Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Music Review, December 2013

Pandelis Karayorgis Trio - Cocoon (Driff, 2013) ****
So, here the piano is front and center. A tradition piano, bass and drums trio, Karayorgis' angular Monkish melodies are front and center, deftly supported by Jef Charland on bass and Luther Gray on the drums.

For brevity's sake, let me jump halfway into this excellent album to 'Sideways Cacoon'. Karayorgis' striking chords and Charland's pulsating, yet restrained, bass make for a delicate yet grabbing underlayment to the accessible and convoluted melodic lead. This is followed up by 'Settling,' a more dramatic and rhythmic piece featuring the bass and driving percussion.

More traditional in its instrumentation and approach, the Trio is a wonderful showcase for Karayorgis' knotty and enjoyable compositions. (…)

These four recent releases from Karaygoris' label are really excellent examples of the intersection of composition and free playing. The different combinations of instruments and approaches showcases the pianist's influences and exciting musical ideas. Great music, check it out at http://driffrecords.bandcamp.com/.
Paul Acquaro, Free Jazz Collective, August 2013 (link)

Driff CD 1302 is COCOON, a 6/20/12 recording of the PANDELIS KARAYORGIS [p] trio [Jef Charland-b, Luther Gray-drm] playing original music from each member of the trio. Six of the ten tracks [60:32] are by Karayorgis and they show a direct line to Monk’s writing, and Karayorgis’ improvs are exciting for their harmonic jumps. Oddly, because I’ve never noticed before, I find much of Gray’s solos arhythmic so I’ll assume it is on purpose. Charland’s bass work is right on the traditional mark.
Robert Rusch, Cadence/Papatamus, July 2016

Der seit 1985 in Boston lebende Athener Pandelis Karayorgis ist einer der interessantesten Pianisten und Komponisten des Post Free Jazz. Ein Bein in Europa, das andere fest im amerikanischen Jazz, nährt sich Karayorgis von einem breiten Spektrum zwischen Tristano, Monk, Bley und Cecil Taylor. Auf seinem mit dem US-­Holländer Jorrit Dijkstra neugegründeten Label DRIFF beeindruckt er gleich mit drei Produktionen. Langjährig ist bereits seine Zusammenarbeit mit den komponierenden Impro­visatoren Guillermo Gregorio und Steve Swell.

Die CD ”Cocoon" ist eindeutiger von Karayorgis' Ideen und von erweiterten Spielmodellen des Jazz-trios bestimmt. Sie beginnt mit einem Tristano-artigen Groove, der wiederholt auflebt und versiegt. Generell wird mit dem Rhythmus ebenso gebastelt wie mit der Form. Mit präzise einstudierten, ver­zwickten Themen und Kopfmotiven (oft mit einem rhythmischen Sujet) improvisiert man offen, wobei trotz Kohärenz die intuitive Entwicklung allerlei Haken schlägt. Reaktionsschnell steigen sich die drei gegenseitig nach und verwickeln sich manch­mal in lebhafte, schnell wechselnde Interaktionen. An die Stelle von Akkorden treten häufig Cluster und unter den Händen Karayorgis mutiert der Flü­gel phasenweise zur Perkussion. Zupackender Swing und verschiedene Arten des freien Timings sind ebenbürtige Alternativen. Der Drummer Gray versteht es, ebenso hart zuzupacken wie zart und geschmeidig mit Sounds zu malen. Sicher eine der besten Trio­-CDs von Karayorgis.
Jürg Solothurnmann, Jazz'N'More Switzerland, Nov./Dez. Nr. 6/2013

Le pianiste Pandelis Karayorgis dans un trio jazz avec le bassiste Jef Charland et le batteur Luther Gray. On sent l’influence de Thelonious Monk dans l’écriture du pianiste, mais aussi (et même plus accentuée) dans les deux compositions de Charland. “Idiosynchronicity” de ce dernier, “Cocoon” et “Settling” de Karayorgis sont les moments forts de ce disque. Les passages improvisés - et “out” – sont nombreux, maisCocoon demeure ancré dans le jazz.

Piniast Pandelis Karayorgis in a jazz trio setting with bassist Jef Charland and drummer Luther Gray. The influence of Thelonious Monk can be felt in the pianist’s writing, but also (and more strongly) in Charland’s two compositions. The latter’s “Idiosynchronicity,” and Karayorgis’s “Cocoon” and “Settling” are the highlights. There are a lot of free-form passages and out improvising, but Cocoon remains grounded in the jazz idiom.
François Couture, Monsieur Délire, Journal d'écoute / Listening Diary 2013-07-29/30

Pandelis Karayorgis Trio: Cocoon (2012 [2013], Driff): Pianist, b. in Greece, moved to Boston to study at New England Conservatory in the 1980s and stuck around, with a dozen or more records since 1994 -- his 2007 album as Mi3, Free Advice, was a pick hit here. This is a piano trio with Jef Charland on bass and Luther Gray on drums, not as difficult or explosive as the pianist gets, but vigorous and inventive by any standards. B+(***)
Tom Hull, July 2013 (link)




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