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Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet: System Of 5

Troy Collins By

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A longstanding adherent of intimate duo and trio settings, Boston-based pianist Pandelis Karayorgis' discography has been dominated by small combo recordings since the early 1990s, with many founded on the venerable configuration of piano, bass and drums. A radical traditionalist with a penchant for the acute angles and strident tonalities of advanced post-bop, Karayorgis' recent exploits with bassist Jef Charland and drummer Luther Gray have earned him well-deserved praise. System Of 5 is the debut of Karayorgis' newest ensemble, presenting yet another facet of his prolific artistry—an acoustic quintet featuring veterans Charland and Gray joined by fellow Beantown residents saxophonist Matt Langley and trombonist Jeff Galindo.

Laden with thorny melodies, sophisticated harmonies and shifting rhythms, Karayorgis' labyrinthine compositions eschew the predictability of conventional structures, reveling in the spontaneous potential of mutually improvised narratives. Karayorgis' beguiling writing draws a concise conceptual parallel to his impetuous improvisations; careening through Lennie Tristano-like intervals with Thelonious Monk-ish voicings, his knotty cadences regularly build to a chromatic frenzy of staccato arpeggios and crushing tone clusters reminiscent of a young Cecil Taylor. Charland and Gray are well-attuned to Karayorgis' oblique ruminations, navigating modulating time signatures with a deft balance between pliant old school swing and nuanced abstraction. Langley's abstract blues sensibility and sinuous tone makes a perfect foil for Galindo's gruff avant-expressionism and blustery timbre; their vociferous bacchanalian interplay infuses the proceedings with an impulsive verve that traces its lineage from the soulful New Thing experiments of Archie Shepp and Roswell Rudd back to the roiling fervor of Charles Mingus' seminal Jazz Workshop endeavors.

Throughout the date, Karayorgis and company craft engaging cubist collages from tortuous bop contours and exuberant freewheeling interludes that bristle with coruscating textural detail. Though based on distinct unison themes, Karayorgis' tuneful pieces avoid rote head-solo-head formalism in favor of intricate geometric arrangements featuring interlocking sections for his bandmembers to navigate. Brimming with palpable enthusiasm, Charland and Gray embrace the challenge, double-timing tempos and inverting rhythmic accents with mercurial glee. Karayorgis leads by example, regularly abandoning conventional harmonic progressions during unfettered excursions that juxtapose dissonant lyricism with ecstatic fervor. Langley and Galindo follow suit, transposing gnarled motifs into rapturous exhortations. Expertly negotiating the tenuous divide between inside and outside traditions, System Of 5 is one of Karayorgis' most compelling releases—a stirring session that subtly expands upon the historical jazz continuum, inspired by the lessons of the past.

Track Listing: Transit; Two-ophony; Elastic; Seventh Wonder; Curt's Escape; Stray Line; Due East; Tones Not Notes.

Personnel: Matt Langley: soprano & tenor saxophones; Jeff Galindo: trombone; Pandelis Karayorgis: piano; Jef Charland: double bass; Luther Gray: drums.

Title: System of 5 | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Hatology

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