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>Pandelis Karayorgis/Mat Maneri:
>Lift & Poise



Mat ManeriPandelis Karayorgis


Lift & Poise
12 Improvised Movements
Pandelis Karayorgis
& Mat Maneri

Leo Lab CD 041, 1998

Mat Maneri, violin
Pandelis Karayorgis, piano
Joe Maneri, clarinet
John Lockwood, bass

Recorded December 1996, January 1997

available on Bandcamp

1. Apollo I
(P. Karayorgis, M. Maneri) 4:37
2. In This Language
(P. Karayorgis, M. Maneri, J. Maneri) 5:16
3. Apollo III
(P. Karayorgis, M. Maneri) 1:21
4. Rotation
(P. Karayorgis, M. Maneri, J. Lockwood) 3:48
5. Lift & Poise
(P. Karayorgis, M. Maneri) 5:10
6. Twomblying I
(P. Karayorgis) 3:42
7. Twomblying II
(M. Maneri) 6:02
8. Aspirates
(P. Karayorgis, M. Maneri, J. Lockwood) 6:18
9. Apollo III
(P. Karayorgis, M. Maneri) 3:26
10. Saying Love
(P. Karayorgis, M. Maneri, J. Maneri) 3:49
11. Silent Dog
(P. Karayorgis, M. Maneri, J. Lockwood) 6:03
12. Submerged Song
(P. Karayorgis, M. Maneri) 5:32



In Writers Choice 1998 in Coda Magazine, Art Lange lists Lift & Poise among his top-10 choices.

For their third recording together, Karayorgis and Maneri play duo and solo free improvisations, as well as trio improvs with Joe Maneri (Mat's father) on clarinet and John Lockwood on bass. On the album's three Apollo duets, Karayorgis and Maneri create intimate music, out of small, furtive gestures, and they display an uncanny ability to finish each other's thoughts. Through these quiet call-and-response exchanges, they move in quirky degrees to inevitable, if surreal, conclusions. Sometimes, as on the title track, the pianissimo give-and-take blossoms into robust colors. Maneri's violin lines seem to materialize out of thin air and fade away like the Cheshire cat. Karayorgis shapes complex statements with admirable discipline, using dynamics, silence, and density to great effect. The addition of John Lockwood on "Rotation" elicits a percussive volley of notes from piano and violin. And Joe Maneri's ethereal melancholic clarinet on "In This Language" and "Saying Love" produces some of the album's most subtle and ravishing ensemble passages.
Ed Hazell, The Boston Phoenix, May 22, 1998

Mat Maneri has solidified his position as one of the leading lights of the avant-garde wing of improvising violinists.

Lift And Poise marks a recorded reunion of sorts between Maneri and Pandelis Karayorgis, a pianist he first worked with in 1991 and last recorded with in 1993. Like Peterson, Schuller and papa Joe, Karayorgis is an excellent foil for Maneri. Although they were ostensibly playing standards on their duo outing In Time (Leo Lab, 1993), the performances sounded like nothing so much as a long sonata by an accomplished member of the Second Vienna School. Here it's all originals, and the range of performance styles is wider. A number of the tunes are more pointillistic than anything on the earlier album, while on "Aspirates" and the finisher, "Submerged Song," they get more frantic than their usual anxious-but-not-entirely-panicked state. Karayorgis' technique seems surer on this outing (except on his unaccompanied "Twomblying I," where he falters a bit until the wonderful ending). He has a very active imagination and a nice variety of touches and styles. There is an introversion to his playing that complements the meandering wistfulness of Maneri's violin, even when he's playing up-tempo.

The listener is also treated to Joe Maneri's clarinet on a couple of tunes and John Lockwood's bass on three others. It's the most purely "contemporary classical" performance I've heard from Joe. As a result, "Saying Love" seems to me a fine modern day successor to Bartok's "Contrasts," perhaps the most famous 20th Century work for the clarinet-violin-piano grouping. The most traditionally beautiful of the works on Lift And Poise is the touching "Silent Dog" where John Lockwood provides a lovely droning tonal center. Lockwood seems to me a more introspective player than the friskier Schuller, and his contribution to this tune is splendid. There are many, many highlights to this disc, and it's difficult to single out particular moments, because the contiguous sections are often just as nice. The whole endeavor is wonderful. If you're looking for a recording replete with depth, sensitivity and virtuosity, drive, don't run, etc.
Walter Horn, Cadence, Vol. 24, No. 6, June 1998

Though they're hardly the most prominent advocates of improvised music in America, they're certainly among the most musically arresting. Lift And Poise is sub-titled "12 Improvised Movements," and that might suggest the feeling that arises here of an unfolding extended work. It's sometimes very spare and deliberate, an on-going process that can consist in sustained violin notes, spare chords or phrases of just a few notes from the piano, textures gradually accumulating or bursting into animation, then fading in a shifting design. The sense of a continuum persists through the pieces that add the senior Maneri or Lockwood, the music temporarily expanding its voices rather than losing its concentrated character. The presence of Joe Maneri's clarinet and his emphasis on pitch highlights this dimension, while Lockwood's bass adds a specific rhythmic bite, but these are dimensions already present in the duo.

The leaders' two solo pieces, "Twomblying I" and "II" take their names from the American painter Cy Twombly and a detail of one of his paintings is on the front liner. It's a useful analogy, for many of Twombly's paintings are in subdued hues of gray with calligraphic etched figures that look like writing in an unknown language. Figure and ground, field and detail, are always in movement here, sometimes so gradually that a new sound can come as a surprise. Often in these pieces, the notes hang in a silence grown dense with listening, and pitch and resonance are allowed to assume the fullness of their meanings.

It's remarkable how little these musicians were heard on disc just a couple of years ago, and their new presence is a significant and positive shift in the landscape of American improvisation highly recommended.
Stuart Broomer, Cadence, Vol. 24, No. 8, August 1998

Their way of proceeding ­ the lyrical and intimate exploration of elastic and ethereal forms ­ is not usual and their improvised dialogue is situated at the margins of jazz and classical music of [the 20th] century, right in the heart­ it's true that their two instruments lend themselves to the analogy ­ of a "third stream" of the most contemporary kind. If the pianist evokes here at times Tristano, Paul Bley and a "post-cool" mannerism, the violinist appears more voluble and muscular (notably on the trio tracks with Lockwood) than in his father's group, the legendary Joe (who makes two appearances here on clarinet), even though the stratospheric virtuosity and the expressionist outbursts are out of place. Lift & Poise is a place of poetry, of tension and refinement that anticipates the liberties of the century to come.
Gérard Rouy, Jazz magazine, 1998, [translation, view original in gif format]

Coolness, not in the sense of insensibility or the white West Coast jazz, but as "unpathetic" and "reflective" is a metaphor I find suitable for Lift & Poise. The pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and the violinist Mat Maneri understand how to reduce and calculate their music to such an extent, as if they were looking down at their own actions from the "outside" with a meta-subjective glance. It is exactly this apparent distance ­ whereas it is clear to me that this behavior derives from a specific musical technique ­ which draws the listener into the chamber music-like intimacy. Their two solo pieces amongst the twelve "private conversations," which evolve into trio-discussions, twice with the addition of Maneri-papa's Joe clarinet and three times through the contrabassist John Lockwood, are called Twomblying by Karayorgis and Maneri. This reference to Cy Twombly and the cross-reference of liner note author B. Shoemaker to Barnett Newman's conception of beauty and sublimity of "self-evident" pictures, that do not depend on connotative crutches, hint towards the lucid poetry of this self-reliant, internally balanced aesthetics. The magic of this music lies in the fact that being, as Susan Sontag named it, the "language of the other," it does not crumble into mere noise hieroglyphics. Wittgenstein's' followers are wrong when they expect a yawning silence beyond the point where everything able to be said has been said. Beyond language, language-melody [speech-melody] commences. Music has apparently a different wavelength than logos.
RBD, Bad Alchemy, 1998, [translation view original in gif format]

The music is even more glancing and evasive on Lift & Poise, the second Karayorgis/Mat Maneri piano/violin duo album. It's made up of seductively halting performances built around silence and cramped suggestion. What's odd about this work is the way it can be simultaneously unconventional on the rhythmic, harmonic and melodic planes while retaining a powerful emotional kick To these ears it's even more successful than the quintet work. Both Joe and John Lockwood (on bass) fit easily into the discussion on a couple of tracks.
Will Montgomery, The Wire, April or May 1998

In a class of their own, Pandelis Karayorgis and Mat Maneri veer in the direction of unconventional, non-swinging microtonal free music. Joined in part by bassist John Lockwood and Mat's father, underrecorded reedist Joe Maneri, the group engages in twelve totally improvised movements. At times mournful, at others suspenseful, Lift & Poise is a performance that requires concentrated listening. The younger Maneri's violin is alternately biting, astringent, and attractively pensive, as he negotiates thin toned excursions above the sometimes clamorous piano of partner Karayorgis. Five different combinations of players (solo, duo, and trio) with relatively short pieces maintain diversity on what may be the leaders' most accessible album to date. The elder Maneri, who plays clarinet on two numbers, adds a confident, sometimes wild voice to an otherwise mostly subdued set. Karayorgis displays avant-style roots every so often, as his curt punctuations split the quietude. A set to be savored, even cherished.
Steven Loewy, All-Music Guide

On Lift & Poise, Mat and Karayorgis are joined by Joe Maneri on clarinet for two selections and John Lockwood plays bass on three others. Mat and Karayorgis also have one unaccompanied track apiece. Karayorgis has performed in relatively traditional settings, but he's at his best in this free context. His touch is light but firm, and he produces a pretty, round timbre, which gives his work a gentle quality even when he employs intervals and voicings that are jarring when played by other pianists. Much of Lift & Poise contains relaxed, thoughtful and sometimes pointillistic collective improvising. Mat, on acoustic violin, and Karayorgis listen closely to each other, playing in registers that do not conflict; you can hear and follow them easily and they complement each other beautifully. Joe's clarinet work certainly adds to the interest here and, like the others, he's in a mellow mood. [ ... ] Though still a young guy, Mat's musical association with Joe has given him the equivalent of years of extra study and experience. He's already a master. Now all he has to do is wait for the rest of the world to catch up with him.
Harvey Pekar, Jazz Times, April 2000

*** Karayorgis has made several albums on Leo Records with Maneri. Lift & Poise is probably the best of them, with the bonus of Joe Maneri (clarinet on two tracks) and John Lockwood on the strength. There are 12 tracks, divided into solo, duo and trio pieces, exploring a range of sonorities and improvising languages, ranging from the quasi ‑ classical to the free ‑ form and brutalist.
From β€œThe Penguin Guide To Jazz Recordings,” By Richard Cook and Brian Morton, 8th Edition (2006)

Liner Notes by Bill Shoemaker
The phenomenon of instant history has shortchanged the late 1990s. Too often this time period is oversimplified as a prelude to the millennium. In one sense, it is refreshing to experience culture being influenced by the future; the pitched rhetorical campaigns in the arenas of jazz and related musics during the past two decades to codify the past (for what are in most cases illusory advantages in market position) makes the future the last safe haven from corrosive cultural politics. Still, the proximity to and the appreciable impact of the next century on the 1990s is just part of the decade's dynamism.

A central, if not the central, source of the musical vitality of the '90s is the seemingly spontaneous emergence of a surprisingly large number of musicians who carry no water for any ideology, or even operate within the recognized borders of any one genre and its subsidiaries. Their sensibilities are highly personal, in that they are arrived at through rigorous research and experimentation, rather than a superfluous identification with factions, movements, or schools rooted in chauvinistically tainted aesthetics (i.e.: European Free Improvisation; African-American Classical Music; etc.). They are driven by the work, not by the next recording date, concert tour, or press notice. As a result, their music stands outside the pre-millennial whirl, creating its own space.

Pandelis Karayorgis and Mat Maneri certainly meet these criteria. In the ten years since they met as students at the New England Conservatory of Music, they have moved deliberately from the periphery of jazz and related musics to a more pivotal role in the shaping of the music of the '90s. Their respective discographies detail the evolution of highly individualized voices in a variety of challenging contexts, and the selfless musicianship required to collaborate with equally iconoclastic composers and improvisers. A cursory survey of their joint efforts distills this decade-long process to pungent essences of inspiration, structural integrity, and sincerity of expression.

Their first recordings together - four duets included on Karayorgis' The Other Name (Motive; 1991) - were made while Karayorgis was still pursuing his M.M. at the New England Conservatory of Music, and before what is now considered Maneri's debut in the international arena, a widely acclaimed appearance with his father Joe Maneri in the '92 Montreal Jazz Festival series assembled by, and featuring, Paul Bley. Their reading of Karayorgis' plaintive Three Parts Of A Name, and their off-center takes on jazz chestnuts, document the coalescing of two maverick sensibilities. What is immediately striking about the work is its refined approach to elastic form, which allows the contents of the piece to stand in their own light, outside the shadows of idiom and theory.

It is on their first duo recording, In Time (Leo Lab; 1993), that Karayorgis and Maneri's approach is further articulated as a subtle blending of pointillistic tension and rhapsodic lushness. In a program of originals bookended by contrasting readings of Monk's Ugly Beauty, Karayorgis and Maneri confidently navigate the interstices between the ethereal and the visceral. Again, content is paramount. Compositions like the pianist's Speaking and the violinist's Miranda are at once cryptic and open-hearted, juxtaposing full-blooded rushes of sound, cipher-like fragments, and pregnant silences. Whereas their earlier work incited an elaborate intellectual response, the music on In Time begins to strike deep emotional chords.
Interestingly, the next important step in the duo's evolution took place under the aegis of a third party, Argentine composer/reed player Guillermo Gregorio. Gregorio's Approximately (hat ART; 1995) exemplifies the hybrid sensibility present in much of the decades' most important music, melding Fluxus-informed compositional techniques with a jazz melodicism spanning Lester Young and the Konitz/Marsh axis. Approximately tapped Karayorgis' considerable experience extrapolating the Tristano canon, documented on albums such as Lines (Accurate; 1995). At the same time, the work drew upon Maneri's investigations of microtonality and attack with his legendary father, multi-instrumentalist Joe Maneri (the '95 Leo Lab disc, Get Ready To Receive Yourself, is a recommended starting point for discovering the elder's music).

More important than the refinement of process and lexicon, these recordings reveal an evolution of a rare lucidity within late-century improvised music. Karayorgis and Maneri's pursuit of content has resulted in an intimate understanding of how materials are made vivid by understatement. Call it an extension of cool, albeit one that goes far beyond the usual jazz parameters; it goes to the core of what Karayorgis and Maneri see in the paintings of Cy Twombly. As a result, Karayorgis and Maneri sidestep the gambits of primordialism that hold sway with many factions of improvised music, even in their most turbulent passages. Bow strings need not fray, nor hammers splinter, for harrowing intensity to be expressed. They also buffer their more lyrical materials, preventing them from being sugared with nostalgia and allusion. Karayorgis and Maneri are therefore able to tap many deep emotional wells without being overwhelmed by the gush.

This is the lucidity that has fully matured on Lift & Poise. How to identify it in a particular performance on this engaging program is a somewhat tricky proposition, as it does not have stylistic markers, nor is it revealed through gymnastic virtuosity. A litmus test for revealing this lucidity is the application of painter Barnett Newman's statement of intent to "creat(e) images which are self-evident and which are devoid of props and crutches that evoke associations with outmoded images, both sublime and beautiful." This is a test this refreshingly non-referential music repeatedly aces. Another measure is how Joe Maneri and bassist John Lockwood so easily enter into what to date have been essentially private conversations. Their seamlessly integrated contributions belie any assertion that this music is arcane or obscurant.
Still, the most potent validation of the music of Pandelis Karayorgis and Mat Maneri is its effect on the listener. Lift & Poise discreetly draws the listener out of his or her standard mindset. It may go unnoticed for some time, until the shifting afternoon light or a stack of unopened mail takes on new poetic weight, an acuity that will linger long after the disc is over.
Bill Shoemaker, November 1997


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