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>the mi3:
>Free Advice







Free Advice
the mi3
Clean Feed CF098CD, 2007

Pandelis Karayorgis, piano
Nate McBride, bass
Curt Newton, drums

available on Bandcamp

mi3 page

CD page on Clean Feed site

1. The Mystery Song
(Duke Ellington) 7:25
2. Who Said What When
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 7:02
3. Correspondent
(Nate McBride) 6:38
4. Almost Like Me
(Hasaan) 8:59
5. Warm Valley
(Duke Ellington) 5:22
6. Fink Sink Tink
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 5:15
7. Ankhnaton
(Sun Ra) 7:20
8. Spinach Pie
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 6:19
9. Case In Point
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 8:02


The Boston-based trio Mi3 features the talents of pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, bassist Nate McBride and drummer Curt Newton. Free Advice is the studio follow-up to their live recording We Will Make A Home For You (Clean Feed), one of 2005's most sonically audacious debuts. Invoking a wealth of traditional antecedents and sublime advancements, the trio delivers an ageless acoustic set every bit as intense as its electric debut, with even greater dynamic range.

Widely praised for its gritty electronic textures, courtesy of a heavily effects-laden Fender Rhodes, their premier was a discographical anomaly for Karayorgis, who returns to his original instrument, the grand piano on this session.

Maintaining a steady presence in the Boston free jazz scene since meeting at the New England Conservatory of Music in the early 1990s, Karayorgis, McBride and Newton have honed their interplay to virtually clairvoyant levels.

Embracing a mix of Post-War influences, Karayorgis reveals a fondness for the kinetic dissonance of Cecil Taylor, the abstruse lyricism of Thelonious Monk, the harmonic ingenuity of Andrew Hill and the knotty counterpoint of Lennie Tristano. A conceptual maverick, he weaves these various threads together with the flair of Ellington at his most adventurous.

As regular collaborators of guitarist Joe Morris and the rhythm section for saxophonist Ken Vandermark's Tripleplay trio, McBride and Newton have repeatedly demonstrated an intuitive rapport. Whether shifting meters, modulating time signatures or engaging in free form call and response, they retain control over the most skeletal of structures.

Mixing obscure masterpieces from legends like Duke Ellington (”The Mystery Song” and “Warm Valley”) Hassan Ibn Ali (”Almost Like Me”) and Sun Ra (”Ankhnaton”) with a mix of edgy originals, the trio unveils a keen awareness of tradition that lends an historical perspective to their adventurous spirit.

Delivered with a simmering, noirish sensibility, “The Mystery Song” reveals an aspect often overlooked in the Duke's oeuvre, but it is on Hassan's angularly descending “Almost Like Me” that the trio finds true accord. Having covered “Three-Four vs. Six-Eight Four-Four Ways” on its debut, the trio again tackles the composer's layered rhythms and complex harmonic patterns, navigating the labyrinthine structure with puckish glee and deconstructive brio.

Negotiating the Monkish angles of “Who Said What When” and “Fink Sink Tink,” the trio careens through quirky meters and asymmetrical melodies with vivacious delight. “Spinach Pie” and “Case In Point” employ Tristano's thorny sense of melody and halting rhythm, while the bluesy and plaintive Ellington ballad, “Warm Valley,” displays a tender side of the trio.

A strong outing recalling the heady trio interaction of Money Jungle (Blue Note, 1962) and Featuring the Legendary Hassan (Atlantic, 1965), Free Advice is a timeless trio masterpiece destined to surprise listeners for years to come.
Troy Collins, All About Jazz, January 2008 (link)

Different piano, same go-for-broke attitude.
Mi3’s debut We Will Make a Home for You, released in 2005, boasted happily raucous versions of tunes by Thelonious Monk and Eric Dolphy. Pandelis Karayorgis played electric piano there. On this even-better sequel, the not-as-famous-as-he-oughta-be Bostonian is back on his customary acoustic piano; the repertoire is mostly original, but the go-for-broke attitude is the same. Karayorgis, drummer Curt Newton and bassist Nate McBride have played together a lot since the early ’90s, and have a loose, tough, push-pull sensibility — they engage in the kind of rhythmic high-wire work that comes from having partners you can count on. At times Mi3 come off like a trio of slamming percussionists — as on “Fink Sink Tink,” which sounds like a lost Monk tune. The bassist and drummer’s aggressive (but always musical) approach makes this more equilateral than most piano triangles. The trio covers Ellington’s “Mystery Song” and “Warm Valley” (the latter appropriately tender), but the standout is one of Sun Ra’s loopy anthems, “Ankhnaton,” which starts Sun-ny style but which they soon make their own.
Kevin Whitehead, eMusic (link)

Spaceways Incorporated bassist Nate McBride sets up a steady, rolling platform for Pandelis Karayorgis's flights of pianistic fury by fetching seductive riffs from Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, and Hasaan ibn Ali. This Boston trio was originally formed to play in a rock club, churning out punk-Monk fusion with electric piano. Now, with the piano unplugged and McBride continuing to develop as a subtle (and grooveful) bassist, they've moved into something new: free-jazz boogie-woogie? A
Tom Hull, Village Voice May 13th, 2008 (link)

mi3 are Pandelis Karayorgis (piano), Nate McBride (bass) and Curt Newton (drums). A trio that works on a multitude of levels, with an evident influence: Thelonious Monk, despite the absence of Monk pieces in this album (instead, Duke Ellington and Sun Ra tunes are featured). The M-factor is especially explicit in the leader’s style, which privileges frequent tangential runs and semi-flourished chords in which minor second intervals are dropped like obvious consonances. But it’s not all there: Karayorgis is also very adept in polyrhythms, the composed meters that he displays throughout “Case in point” constituting a great example of fresh virtuosity over a freely swinging, liberal rhythm section. Speaking of which, McBride confirms himself as one of the most interesting bassists around, his timbre at once marauding and tradition-rooted, the interpretation always perfectly on cue with what the screenwriting of an improvisation calls for. On the opposite side, Newton is the third of a perfect pair, in that his fragmented percussive curiosity indemnifies those - such as this listener - whose capacity of bearing jazz’s “codified freedom” has sunk to an all-time low. This music is not literally unpredictable, mind you; yet the drift-anchor elements that it contains are more welcome than undesirable, providing a few points that, once linked, define an already well-developed sketch. A large-minded method of approaching one’s past while keeping both eyes on the future.
Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
(link, about)

Pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, bassist Nate McBride and drummer Curt Newton formed mi3 as the house band for a series called MIM—“Modern Improvised Music”—that McBride curated in Boston. The group’s first album, We Will Make a Home for You, largely recorded in the storage room above a dry cleaner that had been converted into an art gallery, was electrifying, with Karayorgis playing, out of necessity, the Fender Rhodes electric piano. For their second album, Karayorgis switches to his main instrument, the acoustic piano, but the results are no less electric.

Karayorgis has absorbed and internalized the likes of Thelonious Monk, Andrew Hill, Cecil Taylor, Matthew Shipp and probably plenty of other left-of-center pianists from across the generations. Bebop informs his style, but he trades in contrast and open space. Angular phrasings and sharp-edged chords define tunes like mi3’s rendition of Duke Ellington’s “The Mystery Song” and the Monk-inspired Karayorgis original “Fink Sink Tink,” and he gets a speedy workout on his “Case in Point,” both hands darting up and down the keys.

Newton rarely just taps out the rhythm, choosing instead to improvise against the implied beat, and McBride plays freer than many bassists would feel comfortable doing. On “Who Said What When,” each player seems to be doing his own thing, but then it all gels. No one is soloing per se; someone decides it’s go time, and the others step out of the way. When they decide to play it straight, they’re equally compelling.
Steve Greenlee, Jazz Times, April 2008

Pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, bassist Nate McBride, and drummer Curt Newton play an honest, expressive free jazz that’s also playful and intelligent—it feels closer to the wit and high spirits of hard bop or swing than most free piano trios. Everything in the music is malleable, tempos are unfixed, ensemble roles are fluid, and most of what happens from moment to moment is dictated by whatever the trio is spontaneously developing at the time, not by predetermined structures. Karayorgis sets “Who Said What When” in motion with fast moving extended lines, with McBride and Newton capering right beside him. Suddenly he cuts off linear progress with blocky note clusters and the music disperses in spattered piano notes and scattered snare accents and widely spaced bass thrusts. The trio is interactive enough so that these frequent changes in direction come not just from Karayorgis, but from anyone. Their empathy is strong enough so that ideas emerge by mutual agreement and develop for as long as the group maintains interest in them. Then they quickly decide together to investigate another, usually contrasting, direction. This makes tunes like “Correspondent,” “Spinach Pie,” and “Fink, Sink Tink” radically unstable, but the music feels unstrained and even lighthearted. Their approach to jazz standards like Ellington’s “The Mystery Song” and “Warm Valley” is equally discursive and free of literal historicisms. In fact, what they’ve taken from history is not style or genre limitations, but a sense of possibility, a license to explore – enjoy it as they do it.
Ed Hazell, Point Of Departure, Issue 17 - May 2008 (article URL)

After listening to the MI3 trio’s Free Advice, I am embarrassed to say that I missed Pandelis Karayorgis’ delightful playing until now. He has been around, recorded with Ken Vandermark among many others, and has a style all his own that is quite compelling. In fact the entire trio has a definite vibe that manages to project a dynamism and spirit that gives one a real lift. As the CD liner notes explain, they became the house trio at Boston’s Abbey Lounge in 2002 and because there was no piano in the club, Pandelis was obliged to use an electric version. After that experience and a CD that used that configuration, they return here with an acoustic trio that manages to harness a kind of musical electricity without the actual voltage. The trio clearly is comfortable together. They listen without imitating one another, while nevertheless complementing what is happening at any point. Drummer Curt Newton fits the group concept well, with a loose, seemingly casual, faux sloppiness that is every moment intentional and creative. McBride of course is one of the accomplished bassists around with a woody tone and direct articulateness. He gets a good amount of space to show what he can do. Pandelis is a terrific pianist. With a zeal for dissonance, a Monk-like abruptness and the controlled freedom of a Paul Bley—hashed together skillfully with pure Pandelis—he is in his element on this disk. With the opening “Mystery Song,” one knows that something special is happening. It’s the old Ellington number done a la Lacy but with more dissonance. Pandelis plays on the various possible harmonizations and intervallic relations as he goes. The group realizes the pulse freely without stating it overtly and it jells perfectly. An up abstraction comes into play with “Who Said What When.” With a loose-as-a-goose rhythm backing, Pandelis is all over the place, cascading dissonantly, then building with the rhythm section to a lovely froth. Sun Ra’s “Ankhnaton” has that familiar quasi-Egyptian head and it’s all played with panache, on the foundation of Afro rhythms and an ostinato bass. Pandelis then launches into tart dissonances and crazy post-Bop locked hand blocks. He often plays with clusters of intervals, mostly tighter seconds, thirds, and fourths out of the harmonic logic of the piece at hand, but set free on their own from time to time, playing with the implications and deconstructions of the melody and harmony. There is an intervallic playfulness, and loose but firey dissonance. The MI3 trio isn’t afraid to express it all! If I had the money I would find every recording Pandelis has been on so far. But I don’t. This surely is one of the piano trio disks of the year for me. Jump on it if you dig the inside-out outside-in Freebop that they so masterfully execute.
Grego Applegate Edwards, Cadence Magazine, Fall 2008

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

O MI3 que está por trás de Free Advice não é a divisão da Millitary Intelligence britânica dedicada à investigação de música subversiva, senão teriam de se prender a si mesmos, pois a música que praticam nem por um momento se conforma à ortodoxia. O seu cerne é o pianista grego (radicado nos EUA) Pandelis Karayorgis, que conta com a cumplicidade de Nate McBride (contrabaixo) e Curt Newton (bateria). A música dos MI3 é feita de esquinas e vazios abruptos, e construções que se diriam saídas d’O Gabinete do Dr. Caligari.

O piano angular e enérgico de Karayorgis é devedor das influências dos mestres Thelonious Monk e Cecil Taylor (há quem complete a Pianíssima Trindade com Paul Bley, de quem Karayorgis foi aluno). O repertório de Free Advice é da autoria do pianista, mas há lugar para dois temas de Duke Ellington e “Ankhnathon”, peça alicerçada sobre uma hipnótica sequência de cinco notas na mão esquerda de outro pianista requintadamente esdrúxulo – Sun Ra.
Time Out Lisboa (URL)

Boston group, consisting of pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and two-thirds of Ken Vandermark's Boston trio, bassist Nate McBride and drummer Curt Newton. Karayorgis' website lists 18 records going back to 1989, and I'm way behind the learning curve on them. MI3 was formed to play in Boston's Abbey Lounge, a bar usually featuring rock bands. On their previous album (We Will Make a Home for You) Karayorgis played Fender Rhodes and featured pieces by Monk and Dolphy, while McBride recycled his Spaceways Inc. funk grooves. This is more conventionally an avant-garde piano trio, with acoustic piano and bass, more originals, but also pieces from Sun Ra and Ellington -- the latter filtered through Steve Lacy. The result is one of the more satisfying piano trios I've heard lately, a mix of strong rhythms and surprising offsets. A-
Tom Hull - www.tomhull.com

Free Advice n'est pas l'énième album du sempiternel trio jazz piano/basse/batterie. Mais un disque que vous écouterez encore et encore! PANDELIS KARAYORGIS a laissé de côté le Fender Rhodes du We Will Make a Home for You, album précédent du trio (CF 039), au profit d'un piano à queue de concert. A noter : une très belle reprise de The Mystery Song de DUKE ELLINGTON, dans la suite logique de l'interprétation qu'en proposa STEVE LACY sur son album Evidence.


Liner notes by Stuart Broomer
The members of mi3 are veterans of the Boston free jazz scene who have worked together for years, but this band's genesis took place in 2002 under special circumstances when Nate McBride was hosting a series called “mim” (modern improvised music) at Boston's Abbey Lounge, a tavern without a piano that was usually home to rock bands. Mi3 became the house trio with Pandelis Karayorgis playing electric piano. The results of the experience (both in situ and in the studio) were collected on We Will Make a Home for You (on Clean Feed), a notable release from 2005. The electric incarnation of mi3 might suggest what certain very high profile piano trios should sound like, combining some of the drive and riff-driven energy of electrified music with the fluid, complex creativity of jazz.

What's intriguing about that genesis is the way it influences the acoustic music of mi3 heard here, as Karayorgis turns to his customary grand piano. The electric beginnings give the group a distinct energy that's not usual in a piano trio, and it may come from the way piano lines (and chords too) seem to get pared down on an electric piano. The experience may have enhanced Karayorgis's percussive specificity and the particular drive that this band possesses.    

But there's far more to the energy here than just the experience of playing electric. These musicians embody the special energy of the Boston scene and its capacity for simultaneous thought and action. Collectively they've worked with a spectrum of New England musicians, including Charlie Kohlhase, Joe and Mat Maneri and Randy Peterson. Nate McBride and Curt Newton have previously worked in trios with Ken Vandermark (a Boston native) and Joe Morris, so there's a special cohesion here too.

Significantly, Karayorgis, McBride and Newton all have degrees from the New England Conservatory, where they met in the early '90s. Home to such great figures (performers, composers and theoreticians) as George Russell, Jimmy Giuffre, Ran Blake, Paul Bley and Joe Maneri, the Conservatory embodies a rigorously intellectual and visionary stream that ran through bop, cool, third stream and free jazz, long providing coherence amidst apparent division. While much of American jazz (and “jazz ed”) was simply dumbing down, becoming adamantly commercial, reactionary or both, the New England Conservatory became a sanctuary. It has helped launch the careers of international figures like Don Byron and Satoko Fujii, but it's also had a profound effect on the Boston community. Much of Boston jazz is different—edgy, spontaneous, probing and deeply thoughtful—and some of it must come from that presence, including Joe Maneri's unique emphasis on microtonality with its radical instability.

Mi3 has a distinct relationship with the tradition, both in its broadest parameters and in the influence of some critical (and often overlooked) figures. There's an abstract energy in Karayorgis's flights that signals the substantial presence of Lennie Tristano in his listening, a reaching outward to the harmonic limits in those spiralling runs. Similarly, Nate McBride can suggest the bass playing of Charles Mingus, evident in the expressive note bending and propulsive drive. The band's greatest achievement, though, is the individual and collective ability to maintain a brilliantly casual balance between form and freedom, with Karayorgis's knots and splashes, McBride's suddenly flashing runs and Newton's furiously-random-sounding knitting of metallic percussion sounds all suddenly lining up in perfect accord.       

On the previous CD, four of the nine tunes were by Thelonious Monk and there's a distinct relationship to Monk's music in mi3's work. While American jazz musicians have tended to “normalize” Monk, Karayorgis is closer to the European tradition of radical Monk advocates, like Alexander von Schlippenbach, Mischa Mengelberg and Irene Schweizer.   While there are no Monk tunes here, he might provide some of the historical perspective through which this music is constructed, an erratic jauntiness that informs Karayorgis's writing, as in the consciously Monkian “Fink Sink Tink.” As the composer describes it, “‘Fink Sink Tink' is a blues I wrote in 2004 using a couple of Monkian techniques: a repeated figure that is moved to different parts of the measure and a prominent flatted 5th in the melody. Of course it's in Bb like all of Monk's Blues! The title comes from the different ways my daughter and two of her friends pronounced the word ‘Think' when they were toddlers.” The Monkish playfulness also comes through in some of the brilliantly timed keyboard splashes of “Spinach Pie,” while “Case in Point” provides another view of a Karayorgis composition first heard on Disambiguation (on Leo) by a quintet co-led by the pianist and Mat Maneri. It's a two-part tune, the first section a duet between Karayorgis and Newton, the second a Tristano-inspired line.

Nate McBride brought in Ellington's “Mystery Song” having been first exposed to it in a 1961 version by Steve Lacy. It's definitely Ellington the radical who's heard here, whether filtered through Lacy's piano-less quartet and Monkian view or through his own explorations, as Karayorgis explains the presence of “Warm Valley”: “It's one of my favorite Ellington ballads. I suggested using it because I was looking for a Strayhorn/Ellington ballad with rich harmonies and strong melody, plus I loved the Money Jungle version! We have developed a way of working on such ballads that I think is well suited for this tune.”   Invoking Ellington's brilliant encounter with Charles Mingus and Max Roach is emblematic of this group's appreciation of the piano trio at its most aggressively interactive. Nate McBride has performed an especially vital service in reviving the compositions of the largely overlooked Philadephia pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali. Hasaan influenced John Coltrane's harmonic conception (along with Dennis Sandole), but his only issued recording came in 1964 when he made The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan . The album has proven a treasure trove for mi3, who recorded Hasaan's “Three-Four vs. Six-Eight Four-Four Ways” on We Will Make a Home for You and here perform “Almost Like Me.” Hasaan was a master at integrating rhythmic and harmonic complexity and the combination is a paradigm for the music that mi3 makes. The rhythmic layering is particularly delightful here, with Newton freeplay tumbling across Karayorgis's walking left hand. Sun Ra's “Ankhnaton,” first recorded in 1960 on Fate in a Pleasant Mood , manages here to be both stately and exotic, its ostinato summoning Ra's imaginative Egypt.

There's something in mi3's bar-band beginnings that unites it to the tradition, the almost covert creativity that Ellington practiced in the Cotton Club, Hasaan in the R&B bands that meant steady employment, or Sun Ra in the world re-enacted in the fictive show-bar of Space Is the Place . There might even be a reason why that name mi3 suggests a kind of secret service, and why the band gravitates to strong tunes and assertive bass patterns. The band's music is insistently plural, a complex art that can survive indifference and adversity to communicate on many levels.

Stuart Broomer

May 2006




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