With so many projects in the works, where is one to begin in a survey of pianist Pandelis Karayorgis? The Boston-based educator (born in Athens, Greece) is a member of The Whammies (featuring Han Bennink), a sextet formed with Driff Records partner Jorrit Dijkstra to cover the music of Steve Lacy. He also maintains a Chicago Quintet with Dave Rempis, Keefe Jackson, Nate McBride, and Frank Rosaly, and is a member of System of 5, Construction Party, and the Guillermo Gregorio/Pandelis Karayorgis/Steve Swell Trio.
Perhaps the best introduction to his sound is in this trio. Karayorgis has led several variations of a classic jazz trio, first his collaboration with Nate McBride and Randy Peterson, then MI3, with McBride and Curt Newton. The machination of the trio concept on Cocoon teams finds him with bassist Jef Charland and drummer Luther Gray. With respect to his other trios, this one is the best yet.
Karayorgis' music is a blotter for the music of Herbie Nichols, Thelonious Monk, and Andrew Hill. Like these skilled innovators, the signature on these compositions (six out of ten here) is his explanation of swing. The pianist combines the playfulness of Alexander von Schlippenbach with the physicality of Don Pullen to create a slightly unbalanced sound. His self-spun approach on "You Took My Coffee And Left" pairs a stylish swing with a galloping right hand full of notes. With a rhythm section eager to swing along, Karayorgis is free to fly. "Sideways Glance" could easily be mistaken for a Monkian meditation, employing an off-kilter groove to showcase what critics once called "wrong notes," when played by Monk.
Charland and Gray are disposed to the same approach. They can tinker with a time signature, as on "Jabberwocky," or extend the conversation. On "Red," a tromp of a blues, Charland maintains his end of the conversation, with Gray sliding remarks in between. Each piece presented here is a unique take on surreptitious swing.
Cocoon; Downed; Idiosynchronicity; You Took My Coffee And
Left; Sideways Glance; Settling; Red; Hopscotch; Jabberwocky; Incandescent.
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