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The Pandelis Karayorgis Trio: Heart and Sack

Robert Spencer By

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The liner notes to this disc quote the Greek modernist composer Iannis Xenakis; while Heart and Sack by the Pandelis Karayorgis Trio does not have Xenakis' spiky amelodicism, pianist Karayorgis is clearly aware of the territory staked out by Xenakis and his peers. These ten tracks all have a solid jazz sense of forward motion, courtesy the fine drummer Randy Peterson and the superlative bassist Nate McBride, not to mention the directed sensibilities of Karayorgis himself. However, Karayorgis, while never straying too far from a melodic thread, works into his jazz trio some of the sounds and rhythms of music like that of Xenakis. He achieves a synthesis that is delightful and very much his own.

There are six originals by Karayorgis, one from McBride, and covers of Duke Ellington's "Frustration," Eric Dolphy's "Miss Ann," and Ken McIntyre's "Lautir," which McIntyre first recorded with Dolphy. "Lautir" is darker-edged than the original, enhancing the inherent exotica of the tune into a sense of real foreboding; "Miss Ann" is a rush of harmonic exploration that is barely recognizable. "Frustration" is given no less of a modernist reshaping, with fascinating interplay between Karayorgis' left-hand and then right-hand sallies, and McBride's bowed replies.

McBride is no less outstanding on Karayorgis' "What Did I Say?" and "How Daisies Jiggle." Both are angular, halting melodies, on which Karayorgis' searching piano musings are punctuated and underscored exquisitely by the bassist. Another Karayorgis piece, "Straight Blues," is a bit of a fib, although there is a blues skeleton here, over which Karayorgis plays like Stravinsky, when Igor was imagining what the ragtime he saw on a page of sheet music sounded like. That is no putdown: this is a reshaping of the blues, via the European classical tradition, for the ages. No less effective are Karayorgis' "I Heard Things," "Corpus Delicti," and the title track, and McBride's ironic call-and-response "Half Tilt."

This trio has found something new to say, and new ways to say it, in the well-traveled territory of the piano trio. This is an excellent disc, highly recommended.


Title: Heart and Sack | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Leo Records

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