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Pakula/Karayorgis Quartet
Accurate AC-5014, 1995
Buying info (Accurate Records)

Eric Pakula, alto sax
Pandelis Karayorgis, piano
Nate McBride, bass
Jonathan Robinson, bass
Eric Rosenthal, drums
John McLellan, drums

Recorded March 1995

available on Bandcamp

1. 317 E.32nd Street
(Lennie Tristano) 3:48
2. Two Not One
(Lennie Tristano) 5:25
3. King Oliver
(Eric Pakula) 5:14
4. Dark Song
(Eric Pakula) 5:01
5. Featherbed
(Ted Brown) 2:33
6. Kary's Trance
(Lee Konitz) 3:38
7. Mishing
for Misha Mengelberg
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 4:36
8. April
(Lennie Tristano) 5:44
9. All About You
(Lennie Tristano) 2:27
10. Lament
(Eric Pakula) 5:37
11. In Time
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 3:47
12. Dreams
(Lennie Tristano) 4:25
13. Out & Out
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 4:41
14. Baby
(Lennie Tristano) 5:53
15. Background Music
(Warne Marsh) 3:42


L to R: Karayorgis, Pakula, McLellan, McBride

Lines was voted among the top picks in the 1996 Cadence magazine critics' poll.

In a period when mere imitation often masquerades as homage in jazz, it is encouraging to find young musicians uncovering personal solutions through the use of historical approaches. Pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and alto saxophonist Eric Pakula clearly revere the linear spontaneity of pianist Lennie Tristano; but they apply their own grit and logic, adding depth and shadow without breaking the musical flow, as if Tristano had met Thelonious Monk. "Lines" (Accurate), the second Karayorgis/Pakula collaboration on compact disc, gives an excellent account of their interpretive skills, with nine covers of tunes by Tristano and his associates, plus six originals that display true personality.
Bob Blumenthal, The Boston Globe, Friday November 10, 1995

On their second CD, Lines (Accurate), the Boston -based Pandelis Karayorgis/Eric Pakula Quartet play striking originals and choose some of bop's least explored territory in the music of pianist and teacher Lennie Tristano. The blind pianist's convoluted, evenly paced lines, which generally float over the changes of familiar tunes disguised by difficult chord substitutions, invite improvisers to think in terms of entire choruses instead of four- or eight-bar chunks. They demand that soloists react quickly to other band members' input; they can also compel those soloists to pursue ideas independently of the band. Tristano's early '50s quintet with saxophonists Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz most fully realized his ideas, emphasizing contrapuntal interplay and linear development over rhythmic variety; drummers and bassists were generally relegated to time keeping functions. Yet the Karayorgis-Pakula Quartet meet the demands of Tristano's music in ways that might have surprised him.

As the primary melodist, alto saxophonist Pakula gains the most from Tristano, as was seen last month at the band's CD-release party at MIT's Killian Hall. On one of the Tristano numbers from the album, "Baby" (a variation on "Melancholy Baby"), Pakula's continuously evolving lines developed their own momentum and remained undisturbed even by Karayorgis's mutant stride-piano assaults. Pakula's dry, sibilant tone perfectly suits the composition's pensive mood, but his ironic wit saves him from sentimentality. He sounds more surprised by melancholy than absorbed in it. Pakula also excels at musical dialogue. His solos on "Out & Out," a Karayorgis original, and Lee Konitz's "Sub Conscious Lee" left lots of space for others to join in - and he often let a bandmate's idea send him off on a tangent.

Whereas Pakula proceeds by little nudges, pianist Karayorgis is more likely to launch surprise attacks. His solo on Pakula's "Sudsy Pink" (the only jazz tune I know inspired by cheap dish soap) exploded in gales of atonal energy, which - after his thoughtful elaborations of percussive Monkish figures and tartly dissonant chords - threatened musical mayhem. But Karayorgis, who last year released In Time (Leo), a fine duet album with violinist Mat Maneri, never lets these gusts of notes destroy the integrity of his solos; they remain beautifully, if asymmetrically whole. His willingness to push to extremes or do the unexpected severely tested the limits of the Tristano material. He deliberately dropped out of tempo on several occasions, most notably on "Sub Conscious Lee," and had listeners wondering how he would work back to speed. But even when Karayorgis hammers note clusters or plays hide-and-seek with the tempo, he thinks in terms of the overall performance. In this sense, he was true to the spirit, if not always the letter, of Tristano's music.

Bassist Nate McBride, also heard on the Joe Morris Trio's latest (and best) recording, Symbolic Gesture (Soul Note), and drummer John McLellan, heard on Made In The Shade's debut on Accurate, were sensitive listeners and equal partners in the live music. While keeping impeccable time, McBride fed the music with ideas rich in implications for the soloists. Pakula in particular responded to his playing all night. McLellan, though the least mature of the group (he overplayed sometimes), also bristled with ideas that inspired the rest of the band. His brush work on "Sub Conscious Lee" was especially impressive.
In their willingness to take chances with the material, the Pandelis Karayorgis/Eric Pakula Quartet proved themselves more interested in the transformation of the jazz tradition than in simply preservation. And with their latest album striking out in new directions from their impressive debut, Between Speech & Song (Cadence), they're obviously committed to seeking challenges. Stay tuned.
Ed Hazell, The Boston Phoenix, December 1, 1995

The alto saxist and pianist, along with their sidemen, devote their music to
the radical advances of Lennie Tristano, the criminally underrated innovator
whose brave experiments eventually resulted in free Jazz. The cuts here
recreate the hundred-note runs of Tristano as well as his emphasis on
improvising to melodies instead of chord progressions. With most of
Tristano's catalog out of print, it's wonderful that a band like this one
revives his style. They're a tight bunch advancing a precarious avant-garde
Jazz style that probably none of the recent neo­hard boppers could touch.
Dave McElfresh, Jazz Now Interactive / Jazz Now Magazine, April 1996

1995's Lines (Accurate), by pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and alto saxophonist Eric Pakula, approaches compositions by Tristano, Konitz, Marsh, and Tristano-ite Ted Brown (as well as Tristano-esque tunes by the co-leaders) with an exhilarating freshness that demonstrates the vitality and enduring quality of the music.
Steve Futterman, Jazziz, Vol. 14 No. 12 December 1997

Tristano lives! Of the fifteen compositions on this CD, six are credited to the late pianist and teacher, and two were written by Tristano alumni Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. Altoist Pakula has a good deal of Konitz in him, especially the ability to sound intensely modern without being particularly boppish or "out." Some of his lines are even bluesy in ways not always associated with the Tristano school. The real surprise on this disc, however, is pianist Pandelis Karayorgis who has internalized the lessons of Tristano without becoming a slavish member of a cult. On Karayorgis's tribute to Misha Mengelberg, bearing the wonderful title "Mishing," he grabs up big handfuls of notes, taking liberties with time and key signatures but never ceasing to be part of a coherent ensemble sound. His sidemen respond with corresponding intensity. On other numbers, I hear major echoes of Herbie Nichols and several Monkish moments. More often than not, however, Karayorgis is very much his own man, using quirky lines, sudden bursts of dissonance, and soulfoul melodies, always in fresh combinations. With drummer Eric Rosenthal, who appears on three cuts here, Pakula and Karayorgis made an album for the Cadence Jazz label that received an enthusiastically positive review from Richard B. Kamins (10/94, p.88). In that review, Kamins resisted the temptation to talk about every track on the CD even though he seemed eager to do so. I feel the same way about this latest effort-every track is unique and invites commentary on how it compares to the others.

This is definitely what critics call "challenging" music, so don't give it to your 16-year-old nephew who says he likes Kenny G and wonders what else is happening in "Jazz." I confess to being a little wary during my first few moments with this music when it seemed like it might be wearing a Tristanian strait jacket. And to the uninitiated, these performances may seem a bit austere. Nevertheless, if you love music where chances are taken and clichés are scrupulously avoided, you will find much to admire on this disc.
Krin Gabbard, Cadence, Vol. 22 No. 4 April 1996

On their new disc, "Lines" (Accurate Records), Boston-based Pandelis Karayorgis and Eric Pakula find inspiration in the music of the legendary Lennie Tristano, whose intricate melodies and fast-paced playing earned him a cult following. Pianist Karayorgis and alto saxophonist Pakula, joined by bassists Nate McBride and Jonathan Robinson and drummers John McLellan and Eric Rosenthal in various combinations, also tackle tunes by Lee Konitz, Ted Brown and Warne Marsh in the Tristano mode and contribute originals to the set. The late pianist's music, not easily classified as bebop or anything else, is rarely resurrected, probably because it can be intimidating to even the best of players. Karayorgis and Pakula seem to relish Tristano's "317 E.32nd Street", inserting an out-of-tempo middle section. "Two Not One" also gets a respectful update. As its title indicates, Pakula's "Dark Song" is almost dirge-like with his alto sounding wispy, while "Lament" could find a home as the soundtrack to a film noir detective story. Pakula's "King Oliver" recalls Thelonious Monk, as does Karayorgis' "Mishing" with its stop-and-go feel. "Dreams" gives the pianist a chance to show that he's up to the challenge of straight-ahead Tristano. Karayorgis and Pakula have earned a reputation for being among the more innovative jazz players in Boston, and this disc keeps their reputations intact. Let others try to re-invent swing or bop. These guys are going where few others dare to tread.
John Basile, Neon Navigator, November 1995

Alto saxophonist Eric Pakula and pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and their quartet (bassists Jonathan Robinson and Nate McBride, and drummers Eric Rosenthal and John McLellan), interpret the melodies of Lennie Tristano and others on Lines. The musicians depart from today's usual young-lion bebop excursions to explore fifteen lesser-known tunes (including their own compositions), focusing on melody rather than rhythm or harmony. Pakula and Karayorgis never lose sight of their jazz objectives. Without echoing the Tristano sound, they take on this unique, form-stretching assignment that exhibits their musicianship and understanding. Lines requires repeated listenings to grasp what these young musicians have accomplished in various settings from duo to quartet. It's a delightful, serendipitous listening adventure.
Nancy Ann Lee, Jazz & Blues Report, February 1996

BEFORE: [Laughs, recognizing the tune] I have no idea who this is but it's really very clever, very refreshing. It's a Lennie Tristano tune that they've transcribed here. Lennie is one of those guys who has not gotten the credit for being the adventurous and perceptive artist that he was. He was not only way ahead of his time, he was doing things which are now coming into focus in other people's playing, as we hear on this track. An interesting treatment.

AFTER: That's amazing. I'm glad that these younger musicians are bringing Lennie's writing to people's attention. I did a show for kids the other day on cool jazz and I used a clip from a show that I did in 1958 in which I use Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz playing "SubconciousLee." To me, that epitomized cool. The tempos were burning and here these guys were just so relaxed and...cool. The thing I loved about Tristano's lines is that they would be...on something like "You Came to Me From Out of Nowhere"...as far away from that tune as you could get. But this is nice. I'm gonna have to find that. I think jazz is in good hands when you find people who are really looking deeper into the contributions of people like Lennie...people who are not necessarily on the tips of everybody else's tongue. You know, people too often think, "It's gotta be Bird, it's gotta be Diz, it's gotta be Ellington." Sure, they're the most important people in the field but they're not the only people. Consequently, people like Lennie Tristano tend to get overlooked. And I can't quite understand that. When I worked at Birdland as house pianist the people used to come in and listen to the group...Barry Ulanov has to take some of the blame for this...he would write things...he was so enthusiastic about Tristano that he would write things that would make people react in the wrong way. He would indicate, "If you don't like Lennie and what he's doing then you don't understand jazz." And you know, sometimes people who read that would come in with a defensive attitude..."Well, I don't like it and I do understand jazz!" without really listening. 'Cause, man, that group was so tight with the two saxophones and guitar. When they would play, the other musicians who were playing on the bill always checked them out, regardless of who they were. Because they were so unique, and it was so well done.
Billy Taylor-Before & After, by Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times, 9/99
(commenting on "317 E.32nd Street" from Lines)

Happily, history may be in the process of being rewritten once again. Tristano's music seems to be in the ascendancy, and traces of his influence, in varying ways and degrees, can be found among such wide ranging musicians as pianists Martial Solal and Pandelis Karayorgis, Georg Grawe and Guus Janssen, saxophonist/composers Guillermo Gregorio and Anthony Braxton (and not only in Braxton's alto saxophone, but certainly in his piano playing—where Tristano rubs shoulders with Dave Brubeck, another pianist with at least a partial debt to Lennie). And the list goes on.
From: Changing the shape of music—Another view of Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, and Warne Marsh by Art Lange, Coda Magazine

Last year, Eric Pakula and Pandelis Karayorgis released Between Speech & Song (Cadence), a brilliant recording that made my top ten albums of the year. On that record, they played “Lennie’s Pennies,” a song composed by the almost forgotten Lennie Tristano. This year they are back with six by Tristano and two by his disciples Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. Tristano’s music, some (not me) would say is without emotion. He preferred an intellectual pursuit of a song’s melody. A preference for precision over expression. Karayorgis (piano) and Pakula (alto sax) in varying duos, trios and quartets carries [sic] on the difficult Tristano sound. The music is cool, abstract and at times free. Logical, is the best way to describe the music on Lines. They also owe a debt to Thelonious Monk. His odd sound, now a staple in the jazz dictionary, is called upon as further logic drawn upon the band. They walk the road less taken by today’s jazz lions and that’s refreshing.
SOS Jazz, Youngstown, Ohio, November 1995

Lines should have been subtitled A Tribute to Lennie Tristano because that's what this CD essentially is. Co-leading this March 1995 date, pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and alto saxman Eric Pakula embrace seven of Tristano's compositions (including "April," "Dreams," "Two Not One" and "Baby") along with Warne Marsh's "Background Music," Lee Konitz's "Kary's Trance" and some pieces of their own. Throughout the album, Karayorgis and Pakula's very different outlooks make for some interesting contrasts. While Karayorgis refuses to be the least bit sentimental, Pakula has no problem being lyrical one minute and intellectual the next. One thing they share, of course, is a healthy appreciation of Tristano's innovations, but thankfully, they do a great deal of interpreting instead of placing his music under a sheet of glass and treating it like a museum piece. The end result is an album that isn't overly accessible, but is certainly rewarding if you're willing to accept the improvisers on their own terms.
Alex Henderson, All Music Guide

Alto-saxophonist Eric Pakula has, with pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, made one of the best local jazz albums of the year, Lines (Accurate), a homage to the linear propulsion of the late jazz svengali/pianist Lennie Tristano. Pakula’s long lines and light touch recall Tristano-ite masters like Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, informed by Pakula’s own lyricism and an Eastern European melancholy.
Matt Ashare, The Boston Phoenix, December 22, 1995

Liner Notes by Art Lange
If rhythm is the heartbeat, then melody must be the breath of music - especially in jazz, where so much of the music's shape, its structural and emotional contour, has been based upon the breath-derived phrasing of wind and brass instrumentalists. No composer or improviser of jazz of the post-war period has been more obsessed with melody than Lennie Tristano. Though a pianist, Tristano recognized the importance of such artists as trumpeter Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge, saxophonists Charlie Parker and Lester Young, and sought to use their brilliant linear improvisational concepts to extend the organizational limits of the song form then prevalent in jazz. The idea was, in his words, "to see how far you can stretch out in a given frame of reference." By creating "a multiplicity of lines," harmony is opened up and (ideally) set free of tonal or chordal constraints, and a consensus of rhythmic interaction attains variety and equality among all participants.

Tristano's philosophy, in theory and in practice, can be traced back in time to Johann Sebastian Bach, and forward to Anthony Braxton. But except for a few direct descendants - musical mavericks like Lee Konitz, Sal Mosca, and the late Warne Marsh - Tristano's influence has not been heard lately in any substantial manner. Bebop is the byword of the popular neoconservative movement currently holding sway in jazz, and Tristano's idiosyncratic emphasis on melody rather than rhythm or harmony seems to present too many unorthodox challenges for this new generation of musicians.

 Which is precisely why the efforts of Pandelis Karayorgis, Eric Pakula, and their collaborators on this disc are so satisfying. As the album title, Lines, and the heavy concentration on Tristano repertoire indicates, theirs is not the neo-con party line approach of most musicians under forty. (If further evidence is necessary, hear their previous release on Cadence Jazz, or the pair of discs Karayorgis has recorded on Motive and, with violinist Mat Maneri, Leo Records.) But neither are they Tristano clones. Bringing other influences, as well as their own particular talents, to bear on this mixture of re-devised standards and original material enriches and personalizes the music.

 A brief look at the original pieces here conÞrms their individuality. Though Pandelis Karayorgis is well versed in the Tristano linear approach, a tune like "Mishing," to take just one example, reveals his debt to Thelonious Monk - compositionally, perhaps, more than pianistically, with its high-wire intricacies and staggered tread. Eric Pakula's tunes range from the plaintive passion shared by his "Dark Song" and "Lament" to the playful swagger of "King Oliver." (The latter's tongue-in-cheek title shouldn't mislead anyone as to its author's musical point of view; it is dedicated not to the 1920's cornet sovereign, but to Oliver Johnson, an American drummer living in Paris.) More impressive than any ingenuity of construction is their ability to convey narrative impressions - in Lester Young's instructional phrase, to tell a story.

 When they explore the Tristano songbook, they dig deep and uncover lesser-known gems, such as "All About You" and "Baby," as well as peripheral items like Lee Konitz's "Kary's Trance," Ted Brown's "Featherbed," and Warne Marsh's "Background Music." At no time do they treat these tunes with canonical reverence. Despite the meticulous quality of the newly composed themes, all of these pieces are based upon the chord sequences of well-known standards - in order to facilitate the unexpected melodic variations Tristano demanded of his musicians. Their reliance upon these same tunes time and time again proved them to be merely empty vessels employed to give shape and support to the lyrical improvisations. It's to the credit of Karayorgis, Pakula and the others that they do not mimic the classic style of Þrst-generation Tristanoites; rather, they adapt these pieces as melodic/harmonic channels through which they are able to reconsider the nature of various intervals and sequences, energized by their own emotional impetus. Listen to the way they turn "Background Music" into a torch song, hone a sharp edge to the liquid fluency of "Dreams," and provide "Kary's Trance" with a soulful treatment completely belying the "cold" and "cerebral" misconceptions applied to Tristano's music.

 The fact that these musicians are unafraid to interrupt the flowing momentum of the tunes and redirect the music according to their own whims and wisdom is a virtue of their individuality. Tristano's music demands discipline and concentration - not only to negotiate the treacherous themes, but to create a level of invention and interest in the improvisation greater than that of the original composition. The calm, plucky perspective that these young musicians bring to this music is the result not just of rigorous study but of true feeling for the idiom, and a willingness to go beyond its conventions in search of their own solutions. In a very real sense, this is even more than a continuation of the Tristano lineage, it is the suggestion of something new and vital, without losing the essence of jazz.
Art Lange, July 1995


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