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>Pandelis Karayorgis/Nate McBride:
>Let It




Let It
Pandelis Karayorgis
& Nate McBride

Cadence CJR 1115, 2001

Pandelis Karayorgis, piano
Nate McBride, bass

Recorded February, May 1999

available on Bandcamp

1. Taking A Line For A Walk
(P. Karayorgis, N. McBride) 6:44
2. Peeling Away
(P. Karayorgis, N. McBride) 3:57
3. Criss-Cross
(Thelonious Monk) 8:40
4. Bentonia
(N. McBride) 3:02
5. As For Tongues
(P. Karayorgis) 3:23
6. Corrugated
(P. Karayorgis, N. McBride) 4:35
7. Lying Slow
(P. Karayorgis, N. McBride) 3:33
8. Sebring
(N. McBride) 2:25
9. Let It
(P. Karayorgis) 1:52
10. Eyes And Birds
(P. Karayorgis, N. McBride) 4:32
11. We Enter Fearlessly
(P. Karayorgis, N. McBride) 3:34
12. Rubber Time
(P. Karayorgis, N. McBride) 3:33
13. Twenty
(P. Karayorgis) 2:48


L to R: Karayorgis, McBride


Pandelis Karayorgis is a master at deconstruction. Whether it is a simple melody by Thelonious Monk, such as "Criss-Cross," which he dissects into microscopic parts, or a jointly improvised piece with his partner, bassist Nate McBride, the pianist gets to the essence of each piece without fanfare or musical acrobatics but with impeccable attention to detail. Karayorgis' roots can be traced to Monk, with whom the former shares an affinity to follow his own muse, regardless of prevailing trends. The 13 generally short tracks are surprisingly accessible, particularly considering their free improvisational style. McBride and Karayorgis play two solo pieces each, with the same attention to detail. While McBride is a splendid bassist and sparring partner, Karayorgis is the dominant voice. He exudes a confidant individuality that marks his performances as genuinely original. Highly agile with both hands, the pianist is one of a handful of avant-garde performers on his instrument who is not stylistically indebted to Cecil Taylor. Karayorgis jabs and juts like a boxer, seeming to nearly trip over himself, but actually always in control. He boasts a technical mastery that is never showy but instead used to advance his ideas. For example, he might repeat a phrase several times, in each instance altering it slightly for effect. The results satisfy uniquely as genuine artistic expression.
Steven Loewy, All-Music Guide

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. ... The duo set on Cadence is more satisfying, giving freer rein to the plasticity of the compositions (one aptly entitled "Rubber Time"), and revealing more of the synergy between two musicians who have been gigging solidly together for nearly a decade. McBride plays less walking bass here than he does on the trio album and yet the whole thing swings like hell. The album's finest track is a sinewy exploration of Monk's "Criss Cross", fragments of which resonate and surface throughout the rest of the session, apparently recorded in the pianist's living room - though the cameo appearance by his dog Haris on "Eyes and Birds" isn't all that easy to spot - presumably the hound was as enthralled by the music as the musicians were.
Dan Warburton, www.paristransatlantic.com and Signal To Noise

Pandelis Karayorgis/Nate McBride, Let It (CADENCE JAZZ) Like an abstract Duke Ellington (note his diamond-hard touch) or Andrew Hill (juxtaposing angular thematic fragments), pianist Karayorgis links stark, staggered intervals into crabbed contours of unusual lyricism. McBride's growling, biting bass adds harmonic depth and texture to this program of quizzical and spry improvisations.
Art Lange , Pulse Magazine, June 2001

Pandelis Karayorgis writes music for piano but he'd rather improvise, and the piano/bass duo is one of the more intimate settings to fuel those urges. These recordings with bassist Nate McBride were put to tape in the living room of Karayorgis' home over the course of several months in 1999. Having played together for many years prior, Karayorgis and McBride had no reservations about first takes, even if the dog chose to contribute to the process. Thirteen impressive compositions--eleven of which are fully improvised--ended up on tape, leaving us to wonder what was left to scrap.
Karayorgis' is a comparatively new voice in avant-style music. With so many pianists building their styles from percussive approaches, his methods are surprisingly original. Let It is an incredibly straight example of avant impressionism. No furious hammering at the piano keys, no wood blocks across the piano's innards, and the bass sounds as if it is still in tact by day's end.

Karayorgis' sound is rooted in dissonant melody, which plays well against McBride's deliberative approach to his own instrument. Where the duo scours the frays of their progressions, they simultaneously converge at the nucleus of rhythms. That is not to say that the music will follow a metronome; they follow rhythm as it develops and evolves. "Lying Slow" is remarkable with the piano and bass punctually connected over the course of an odd meter, all the while attentive to the subtlety of amplitude and inflection. "Lying Slow" contains one of the few instances that McBride comes alive upon finding available space toward the end of the track. The lively "Sebring" follows, a two and a half-minute solo bass improvisation, and we hear McBride's discriminating patterns enhanced by a thick, lively tone. By contrast, the solo piano piece, "As for Tongues," is a slow, palpitating excursion that Karayorgis builds from the left hand, his right supplying brief and abstract harmonies. Technically, one of the more impressive tracks is the duo's bizarre reading of Monk's "Criss Cross," which is courageously deconstructed to the point of indistinguishable. The appeal is in analysis and careful attention to each other's episodic extensions of rhythm.

Those interested in an introduction to Karayorgis' style and in a fresh offering of piano/bass improvisation will find this recording particularly enlightening.
Alan Jones, [one final note], issue #7-8, summer/fall 2001 

If you don't know Pandelis Karayorgis and his pianism, you are missing out on something. He's been around a while, lives in Boston, and has his own take on the avant improv free piano. There are players of the piano who are free yet their playing comments implicitly on the bop and beyond tradition they extend; then there are players that break the thread and emerge into a world of "pure" improv. This rule of thumb doesn't completely hold true to every player across the board. But think of Paul Bley for the former and later Cecil Taylor for the latter. Connie Crothers can go in either camp, Don Pullen could too. And Pandelis on his Let It (Cadence Jazz Records), straddles the line, crossing in either direction as the muse warrants.

This CD came out a few years ago. It gives you a substantial sampling of what Mr. Karayorgis can do in duet with bassist Nate McBride, who puts in an excellent performance on these improvisations, as anybody who knows his work might expect.

Pandelis is is great form on this one (but then again I've never heard him sound badly). There is a Monk influence to his playing, among other things, and it comes out in his staccato-sfortzando attack on dissonant chords and hard hitting single lines, not to mention some direct Monk quotes and a version of "Criss Cross" here. Karayorgis has so internalized the influence though that it is the voice of Karayorgis that speaks to us, wholly, whatever he plays.

McBride and Karayorgis have the kind of two-minded unity in this series of duets that few such interactions manage to achieve. They are on the same wave-length and inspired to give their best.

Let It provides plenty of examples of why I find Karayorgis on my short list of the most interesting free pianists working today. That list would include the aforementioned Ms. Crothers, and. . . well, Matthew Shipp, Anthony Coleman, of course Cecil Taylor, and I am leaving out people but the point is the handful is small. Let It gives you a more naked Karayorgis, if you will, an exposed player in the act of creation. So that is probably an excellent place to start for his music. Find out more about the album at www.cadencebuilding.com. Click on Cadence Jazz Records when you get there.
Grego Applegate Edwards, gapplegatemusicreview, June 2010

Karayorgis and McBride team up for another exploratory venture. This time, they play as a duo on a quietly intense album where Karayorgis is again free to exert his probing, contemplative, freeform style while McBride adds dense layers of buoyant substance. The recording was made in a home setting where they did not experience, in McBride's words, "the usual studio pressures." While this type of venue may represent a more relaxed environment, the music is anything but laid back. Karayorgis executes with subtle strength, methodically picking out his notes with impeccable precision and intriguing logic. His playing is not exactly sparse, but he makes a very valid statement without needing to be musically verbose. His conservative use of notes is in keeping with the style propagated by Monk. Karayorgis exploits this process on all compositions, including his challenging rendition of Monk's "Criss Cross," the only tune not written by these musicians. Most compositions receive dual credit.

McBride also uses notes economically' and his bass playing reflects an equally reflective mood. Two cuts are presented as bass solos' and McBride meditatively interrogates the compositions with penetrating profundity. These same qualities are present when he plays with Karayorgis, thus producing a doubly introspective Product. McBride becomes more demonstrative on "Sebring" while fluidly exercising the strings with pronounced authority. Karayorgis also is heard on two solo pieces, but the real excitement of the recording is found in their intuitive examples of interactivity. They are of one mind on this set, each making personalized statements that form an exact fit with the other's methodology. These two musicians steer an inner-directed course yet produce music that is capable of reaching out and touching the listener. Their communicative skills go both ways.
Frank Rubolino, Cadence, Point: Counterpoint, October 2001

These two stalwarts of the important, but under-recognized, Boston improvisation scene have a long-standing dialogue that has been crafted in numerous ensembles. But for this lovely program, Karayorgis and McBride have documented their work as a duo, in what is essentially a private concert (recorded in Karayorgis' living room with occasional brief accompaniment by the household hound).
Listening to these creations, I was reminded of two important piano-bass duos that may well be an influence: Paul Bley/Gary Peacock and Paul Plimley/Lisle Ellis. Like both of these pairings, Karayorgis and McBride seek to craft a music that lies beyond the sturm und drang school of improvisation, one that articulates numerous approaches to rhythm and that fashions situations in which the challenge is to find new ways of communicating within, across, or outside of a pulse. Like the above pianists, as well as the ubiquitous Tristano, Karayorgis plays with a great deal of concern for motion in space (how parallel lines are constructed, how rhythm is articulated, and so forth). He's a subtle player, even when working at high speeds and densities. McBride, who has to be a giant on his instrument, does likewise; he makes the bass small, taming its physical properties and marshaling its vast sonic and timbral range in the nimblest way.

Most of these pieces are spontaneously composed, and reflect the duo's efforts to come to grips with various improvisational challenges. "Peel Away," for example, is an exercise in stripping down to the essentials (refreshing, given how much improv is maximalist). On many of these performances - whether on hyperactive pieces like "Corrugated" or in the repose of "Lying Slow" - they abjure traditional linear narrative forms for a more arch dialogue. Even in their unaccompanied pieces is this approach audible. "As for Tongues" and the title track are spidery, antic piano pieces. Karayorgis uses tonal clusters and some of the trademarks of post-Cecil piano playing, but avoids the clichés as well. On "Sebring" and "Bentonia," McBride invests his hefty playing with much grace. And just in case you're wondering, they construct a fascinating version of Monk's "Criss Cross," slowly accreting and eroding its form. Things move so quickly, so elastically, that one has a hard time digesting it all on initial listens. But while this might be a private performance, it's very inviting.
Jason Bivins, Cadence, Point: Counterpoint, October 2001

Taking a Line For a Walk" is not only the title of Let It's lead track, but an apt, near-definitive description of Pandelis Karayorgis' approach to piano playing. He's like a musical Slinky heading down a set of stairs, unpredictably shiffing from slow, ponderous, fragmented, right hand only movement to furious, Cecil Taylor like chases that slip, stumble and stretch all over the keyboard. Recorded informally in Karayorgis' living room, Let It has the pianist and bassist Nate McBride using the informal setting to create joyful, avant explorations that celebrate freedom but never escalate to pure self indulgent cacophony. McBride's a perfect foii to Karayorgis: his fierce plucking sounds like flip flops siapping against heels as he runs in the pianist's footsteps.

More than just the harmonies suggest Karayorgis has Monk on the brain: he peppers the set with well integrated but sometimes distracting snippets of Monk's famous melodies. A nearly nine minute version of "Criss Cross" serves as a labyrinthine centerpiece, and during an all too short 30-second passage within,they're almost playing straightahead: McBride's strut is confident in 4/4 while Karayorgis plays the melody, each line eventually stumbling into charming Monkish discord. Even the most hardened nontraditionalists will at the very least tap their feet.
Russell Carlson, Jazz Times

Let It is a series of living room musical conversations by the closely-knit duo of Pandelis Karayorgis, piano, and Nate McBride, bass. With no written music, save for Monk's "Criss-Cross" and Karayorgis' closing "Twenty," the pair embarks on a series of freely improvised experiments mostly built from basic rhythmic structures and different ways of stating and subdividing the rhythmic pulse. The informal recording situation at Karayorgis' apartment, which gave the duo plenty of time to create without any pressure, helps to shape the music's generally relaxed and friendly attitude. The duo's marvelous exploration of "Criss Cross" is just one of the highlights of this absorbing release.
IAJRC Journal, Fall 2001

Phonogramm, Ernst Mitter, in German, view gif.

Improjazz, Noël Tachet, in French, view gif.

Jazz Notes, Gérald Mathieu
, in French, view gif.


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