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Driff Records 2001, 2020

Jorrit Dijkstra, alto sax
Jeb Bishop, trombone
Pandelis Karayorgis, piano
Nate McBride, bass
Luther Gray, drums


1 Hyphen 6:34
2 Cutout 10:46
3 Chainsaw Pedicure/Tenet 12:13
4 Shadow/Bird Call/Chickadee 15:18
5 Sand Pile 10:11
6 Neumes/Jowls 13:36

Total time 68:38





Cutout is a Boston-based quintet whose members have deep and decades-long collaborative roots in various groups. Original compositions are interspersed with improvisations, and use “instant-arranging” techniques inspired by free-jazz forms from North America and Europe. Often two or three pieces segue into each other forming a longer “suite” with connecting improvised segments. In this recording from January 2019, all members contribute compositions.





Boston’s Driff Records doesn’t put out a lot of records, but its batting average is high. The label’s two 2020 releases, Cutout and CliffPools keep their hit streak alive while reminding us that it’s important to look beyond New York and Chicago for high-level, left-leaning jazz tinged with the avant-garde.

Cutout (Jorrit Dijkstra, soprano and alto; Jeb Bishop, trombone; Pandelis Karayorgis, piano; Nate McBride, bass; Luther Gray, drums) is a versatile, multidimensional group that is as at home in a loose straight-ahead swing environment as it is in avant-garde abstractness. Their music burns – not with the unbridled passion of youth, but with an assuredness and maturity that can only come from decades of honing one’s craft alongside peers who share the same values. It’s obvious that one of the quintet’s most cherished values is communication. One gets the sense that more than other bands, the members are all on equal footing rather than being boxed into certain roles and have the freedom to interject at any time when he has something important to say. Some of this comes from the charts, which assign the lead voice throughout the group. Solos rarely feature a single soloist blowing for too long on his own, as other members of the group often join in to offer commentary.

Cutout operates mostly in the piano to mezzo-forte range, so when it opens the throttle, as on the opening to “Shadow,” it is done to great effect and maximizes the contrast in dynamics. In fact, contrast might be one of the group’s defining characteristics. On the opening cut, “Hyphen,” Bishop’s spirited solo over Gray’s relaxed medium swing is in stark opposition to Dijkstra’s more subdued solo, which he plays without any accompaniment until Karayorgis jumps in and the pair begin to move together. Instances like this in which textures or tempos or moods change give the music an episodic feel.

Two-thirds of the album consists of tracks that feature multiple compositions, in effect creating a collection of mini-suites. The first is “Chainsaw Pedicure/Tenet,” which opens with a repeated piano figure punctuated by a series of single, horn hoots, which Dijkstra and Bishop play long enough to where it almost becomes comical. Just when it seemed the pair would go on indefinitely, they stop and transition into a rat-ta rat-ta rat-ta rat-ta line before quickly unravelling. They sound like a circus band that forgot to take its medication. After hypomanic solos from Bishop and Dijkstra on soprano, Karayorgis plays a solo transition into “Tenet,” which by contrast to “Chainsaw” features long held notes, softer dynamics, and more space. Even Dijkstra’s growling alto near the end is relatively restrained. The juxtaposition of “Chainsaw Pedicure’s” zaniness with “Tenet’s” carefully placed notes really works.

Cutout uses a similar strategy of combining contrasting and complimentary compositions on the two other mini-suites “Shadow/Bird Call/Chickadee” and the closing track “Neumes/Jowls.” The sprightly “Shadow” opens in an energetic fanfare and it’s one of the few instances where the band settles into a standard soloist plus rhythm section format. “Bird Call” sounds just like the title, with squawks and chirps, while “Chickadee” is as playful as when the little birds flit about on a bird feeder. “Neumes” is quiet and atmospheric and shifts between duos, trios, and quartets. “Jowls” is a medium swinger marked by the horns playing a phrase where the note values get shorter and shorter before snapping back like a rubber band. “Jowls/Neumes” captures the band’s range: from swing to free time, playful to deadly serious, loud to soft, wild to delicate. Their ability to play so much music without having to rely on flashy pyrotechnics to convince us of their chops speaks to their mastery and confidence in each other. The album’s only possible negative is that it might be one song too long, as several of the same compositional gestures and devices begin to reappear. But that’s a minor quibble about a really fine album that I find more to enjoy and appreciate with each listen.

Chris Robinson, Point Of Departure, June 2020 (link)

As much as this five-man unit based in Boston is a co-op band that performs music from all of its members, pianist, Pandelis Karayorgis remains its main lynchpin. Four of the ten tunes on this 68-minute side are credited to him, two of these as standalone numbers ("Hyphen" and "Sand Pile"), a third ("Neumes") paired with "Jowls" by drummer Luther Gray and a fourth ("Shadow") combined with pieces by trombonist Jeb Bishop (the squawk and squeeking "Bird Call") and bassist Curt Newton (a jaunty "Chickadee"). Last but not least, Dutch emigree altoist Jorrit Dijkstra chips in with the whimsically titled "Chainsaw Pedicure" and some sterling solos, most notably on Shadow (its spiraling theme bearing more than a passing resemblance to Tristano’s "Lennie Bird").
On the face of it, this lineup has all the earmarking of a typical bop outfit, but its musical fare reaches beyond the trappings of that genre. Not that it turns its back on it completely — the saxman’s solos are as good as it gets in the swing department — but the band is not shy to take some sharp turns along the way, at times sounding rarified and abstract, elsewhere mixing things up in a more brazen way. The music has a definite edge to it, more rough and tumble than sleek, as is the case of so many current jazz recordings subsumed under the label ‘contemporary’. Proof of this is the album’s second and title track, which the band has seemingly adopted as its name: the inside panel of the cardboard sleeve reproduces a page from the score, credited to the bassist, its sketch-like nature providing a loose framework of cues rather than a fixed arrangement.

All in all, this album does not indulge itself in lofty experimentation at the expense of the tradition, but weaves both of these together in effective ways.

Marc Chénard, The Squid’s Ear, June 2020 (link)

Sinds hij in 2002 naar Amerika vertrok, is saxofo- nist Jorrit Dijkstra een van de drijvende krachten van de scene in Boston geworden. Samen met pia- nist Pandelis Karayorgis runt hij het label Driff Re- cords dat met tussenpozen cd’s uitbrengt van hun projecten. Cut Out is een kwintet dat nu sinds een jaar of drie regelmatig optreedt en voor een groot deel overlapt met The Whammies, de groep die zich bezighoudt met composities van Steve Lacy. In de muziek van Cut Out (dat stukken van alle bandle- den speelt) horen we een vergelijkbare muzikale benadering als in het werk van de grote sopraan- saxofonist. Daarin wordt met een Europees oog naar de Amerikaanse jazztraditie gekeken en an- dersom. Zo horen we in de composities (en het spel) van Karayorgis sporen van Monk, Nichols en Andrew Hill, maar op een manier die bij Misha Mengelberg had gepast. ‘Chainsaw pedicure’ (fijne titel, overigens) van Dijkstra doet in zijn vervreem- dende obstinaatheid denken aan het werk van Guus Janssen (met wie de saxofonist nog steeds werkt in de groep Soundlee). Zijn lucide saxofoonspel com- bineert perfect met de vlezige trombone van Jeb Bishop, maar hij kan ook stevig uitpakken, zoals de verzengende solo in ‘Sand pile’ aantoont. Met de warme bas van McBride en het soepele swingwerk van Gray heeft Cut Out een heerlijk team dat aardsheid en bevlogenheid in gelijke doses tot een sublieme cocktail verwerkt.
Herman te Loo, JazzFlits, Nr. 336, April 2020

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