Although he's only honored with one dedication on the final track of this disc, No Such Thing could be heard as a tribute to reedman/composer Jimmy Giuffre. Consistently in the advance guard, Giuffre is probably the only man to have written a progressive jazz standard, "Four Brothers," for Woody Herman's late 1940s Second Herd's, and yet be considered a new thing fellow traveler in the 1960s.
The now 80-year-old former teacher at Boston's New England Conservatory (NEC) influenced musicians throughout his career, but this band in conception and instrumentation harkens back to the drummer-less trio the reedist headed in 1961. Completed by pianist Paul Bley and a very young Steve Swallow on bass, the group created a new standard for understated improvisation. This admirable disc puts an individual and 21st century spin on those sounds.
Front and centre are Boston-based pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and bassist Nate McBride, coupled with former Bostonian, now Chicago resident Ken Vandermark, playing clarinet, bass clarinet and tenor saxophone and seemingly reveling in his sideman status.
Karayorgis, a NEC grad who has recorded with the likes of Chicago's multi-instrumentalist Guillermo Gregorio and another NEC avant woodwind icon, composer/performer Joe Maneri, wrote four of the tunes here. McBride, a Beantown stalwart, who is a member of such coop combos as Tripleplay and Konk contributed two tunes; while Vandermark weighed in with three.
Emulative, not imitative, the music here merely honors Giuffre's 1961 combo. But with similar instrumentation there's no way the influence won't come through. On McBride's "Pending," for instance, Vandermark begins with a cellar to attic clarinet run that could easily have jumped off Giuffre's legendary Free Fall session. Yet he goes on to construct his solo out of tiny breaths, which mesh perfectly with Karayorgis' wiry, floating notes. Positively Chopinesque or abstract in turn, with plenty of right hand fills, the pianist's solo seems to develop arpeggio by arpeggio. McBride's bowed bass solidifies the bottom, as he does throughout the session.
On "27 Valentine," the bassist's other composition though, Vandermark's clarinet phrasing recalls bop masters like Buddy DeFranco and Tony Scott, rather than Giuffre. The older men would never have turned out the kind of raucous saxophone skronk with which Vandermark opens the disc on his "Skid Into the Turn."
Dedicated to Lee Konitz, another pioneering woodwind iconoclast, "Let Me Know," finds Vandermark limiting himself to the upper register of to his tenor to approximate Konitz's cool alto sound. McBride provides the steady bottom favored by members of the Tristano school from its bassists, while wild card Karayorgis lets loose with some muscular atonality, which might suggest that Cecil Taylor rather than Tristano had wandered into the studio.
Introduction of the unanticipated is one of the ways in which Karayorgis asserts himself on this disc. Should Vandermark be biting the reed or overblowing on a tune like the pianist's own "Disambiguation," he answers with repeated speedy runs or sharp keyboard slurs. In contrast, on the dour and lethargic "Summer," after the initial theme statement he lets the arco bass and chalumeau-register clarinet take over while he practically disappear.
Dedication, demonstration or display, this disc is certainly worth investigation.
Ken Waxman, www.jazzweekly.com
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. Not surprise then that the opener on "No Such Thing",
"Skid Into The Turn", is dedicated to Hill, even though it's not
a Karayorgis original, but by Ken Vandermark. It's one of three KV originals
here - the other two are dedicated to Lee Konitz and Jimmy Giuffre, which,
coupled with Vandermark's increasing use of the clarinet seems to reflect
a shift of interest on the reedman's part away from the titanic paint-stripping
free blowers towards the more discreet yet no less innovative horn players
of yore. For my money though, Vandermark is still at his best when he really
lets fly (the bass clarinet solo on "Disambiguation" sounds like
a fantastic cross between Eric Dolphy and Charles Gayle); his cheeky tooty
West Coasty moments are less captivating. Adding a drummer might have helped.
REIJSEGER AND VANDERMARK: OFF THE BEATEN PATH
The drummerless trio who followed played tunes from their first album, No Such Thing, on the Vermont-based free jazz indie Boxholder. The music was rhythmic and powerful in a quiet sort of way—chamber jazz with an attitude. The trio's subdued dynamics and oblique interactions were reminiscent of the great Jimmy Giuffre trio with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow of 40 years ago.
Karayorgis, who co-led a Lennie Tristano tribute quartet several
years ago, excels at personalizing historical references. On "Summer"
and "Let Me Know," he used many of the same devices that Bley did—predominantly
soloing with just one hand, leaving sudden silences in his lines, interjecting
chords at unexpected moments. What distinguished him was his feel for time,
his dark harmonies, and his heavier touch. McBride was often the axis around
which the other two revolved, especially on "Skid into the Turn"
and "Disambiguation." Vandermark stuck mainly to his dry, expressive
clarinets (another nod to Giuffre), and his plaintive, vibratoless tone blended
beautifully with the other two instruments, especially on the concluding "Pending."
On No Such Thing, Karayorgis, McBride and Ken Vandermark, who
is heard here mainly on clarinets, mesh the agenda of Jimmy Giuffre's classic
early 60s trio with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow, and Karayorgis's abiding
interest in Lennie Tristano's expanded sense of form and tonality. However,
their materials extend far beyond the 'soft jazz' Giuffre articulated on his
trio's LPs for Verve and Columbia. Vandermark's "Skid Into The Turn"
opens the set with the bristling staccato shapes commonly associated with
Anthony Braxton's music of the 70s. Even when a gentler attack and hints of
a walking tempo hold sway, as on Karayorgis's "SBL", the thematic
materials have an acute angularity that makes Giuffre's music quaint by comparison.
Additionally, Karayorgis, McBride and Vandermark also delve into spry neo
cool on such rewarding tracks as McBride's "27 Valentine" and Vandermark's
"Let Me Know", the latter benefiting from the composer's smoldering
tenor. On these tracks, Karayorgis's study of Tristano's music is most readily
apparent in his rhythm, which is effortlessly smooth despite choppy accents
and dense voicings; and, like Tristano, he uses rhythm to stir his cohorts.
Like with yesterday's post, I am catching up today with some music that is a few years old but too good to be ignored. No Such Thing(Boxholder 018, 1999) is precisely that. Of course one never knows until the CD hits the player and the music tumbles out. But this turns out to be an auspicious meeting between Boston based pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, and two of Chicago's finest: Nate McBride on bass (who played on the CD reviewed yesterday) and Ken Vandermark on reeds. This is freewheeling but structured music. There are tunes by each band member and group improvisations as well.
Jazz Notes, review by Gérald Mathieu. View original gif in French.
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