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>Pandelis Karayorgis:
>Seventeen Pieces





Seventeen Pieces
Pandelis Karayorgis
Leo Records CD LR 417, 2004

Pandelis Karayorgis, solo piano

Recorded April 2004

available on Bandcamp

1. In The Cracks Of Four
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 1:46
2. Straight Blues
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 4:51
3. Ugly Beauty
(Thelonious Monk) 4:02
4. Criss Cross
(Thelonious Monk) 2:26
5. Baby
(Lennie Tristano) 3:53
6. Background Music
(Warne Marsh) 2:34
7. Blood Ballad
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 3:32
8. Disambiguation
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 4:14
9. Home
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 3:18
10. Super Bronze
(Sun Ra) 3:14
11. Centennial
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 4:50
12. Gazzelloni
(Eric Dolphy) 2:55
13. Prelude To A Kiss
(Duke Ellington) 2:51
14. Fink Sink Tink
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 4:41
15. I Don't Stand A Ghost
Of A Chance With You

(Victor Young) 3:52
16. Just You, Just Me
(Greer/Klages, arr. Monk) 3:04
17. Summer
(Pandelis Karayorgis) 4:27

Total Duration 60:37

"Seventeen Pieces" received a 4-star rating in the Penguin Guide to Jazz (8th Edition)

**** (…) Even despite the foregoing, one still doesn't think of Karayorgis primarily as an interpreter of repertory material. Yet its his clever reworking of material by Monk and Dolphy again, and even Sun Ra, that catches the attention on this beautifully paced solo set. The readings of 'Ugly Beauty' and 'Criss Cross' are hard to fault on any level and Dolphy's 'Gazelloni' is actually quite revelatory in this transcription, a study ‑ piece for anyone interested in the great saxophonist as a composer. The real surprise and delight, though, is Sun Ra's 'Deep Bronze' a slightly surreal work in its original incarnation, delivered almost prettily here. Whether the Paul Bley influence is still evident, we'll leave up to you; by this stage, though, Karayorgis has developed a powerful piano language of his own and this is its definitive statement to date.
From “The Penguin Guide To Jazz Recordings,” By Richard Cook and Brian Morton, 8th Edition (2006)

Boston-based pianist Pandelis Karayorgis has quietly spent the last fifteen years refining a phenomenal, personal and thoughtful approach to Jazz piano tradition. Immersing himself in the worlds of Monk, Tristano, Ellington, and a dash of Sun Ra, the pianist has forged a personal vocabulary that is informed by these masters while establishing a clear voice of his own. Oddly, this is his first solo release and, as the name attests, he packs it with seventeen compact ruminations on pieces he has recorded before in other contexts. The first two kick things off with deconstructed Blues that toy with time and phrasing as independent lines from each hand leap over each other. From there, he dives in to pieces by Monk, Tristano, Warne Marsh, Ellington, Sun Ra, and Dolphy along with a healthy dose of originals and a few standards thrown in for good measure. All of which go under the pianist's microscope as he unravels the themes and changes, letting the tunes peek through with oblique invention. (It is no wonder that Karayorgis has had such a long-standing fascination with Tristano's music.) Here is someone who captures the essence of Monk without falling back on angular jabs; a pianist who can still find freshness in a tune like "Prelude To A Kiss." With most of the pieces clocking in at around three or four minutes, they sometimes seem like brief studies. But a sense of probing experimentation prevails, carrying the listener through the diverse set. Up until now, Karayorgis has proven himself as a thoughtful leader. This recording reveals a new side to his playing, showing him to be an astute solo improviser as well.
Michael Rosenstein, Cadence Magazine, August 2005

On hearing the well-travelled young pianist Pandelis Karayorgis in his first solo session, Paul Bley comes to mind in the best way. Like Bley, Karayorgis is a deep listener given to research in motion; intuitive and disciplined, he can be whimsical, even capricious, but he doesn't waste time. These 17 works—eight originals, along with interpretations of composers as unalike as Warne Marsh, Sun Ra and Eric Dolphy—are not miniatures, but they are compressed to make the most of his athleticism and also his intellect. If his prismatic approach to "Just You, Just Me" suggests an artist taking a song apart to see how the parts fit together, there is a respect for the structure that's heightened, perhaps, by seeing in from the inside. As such, Monk's music suits him well, with "Criss Cross" impressing as a study in contrary motion, with respectful curator meeting inquisitive artist through one pair of hands. Be aware that such restlessness is bound to infuse the listener; his "Prelude To A Kiss" is hushed, but also veined with quiet apprehension.
Randal McIlroy, Coda

Surprisingly, this is Boston-area-based pianist Pandelis Karayorgis’ first solo piano session. His quirky mix of Monk, Ellington, and Tristano, each influence twisted to Karayorgis’ own designs, is not only suited to solo playing, but seems as if it would be most fully realized in that setting. And Seventeen Pieces does nothing to contradict that supposition. The 17 pieces of the title are each compact, none over five minutes, some less than two. His style is spiky and spare, muscular like a long distance runner. Each note is placed with laser-like precision.

Karayorgis sets each piece in a room of funhouse mirrors, stretched, warped, slenderized. The pianist’s comfort with these tunes, whether by Tristano, Monk, Ellington, or the product of his own pen, is evident. He can start a conversation with them in the middle of a sentence, alluding to the theme, sidling up to it as he does on “My Melancholy Baby”, luxuriating in Tristano’s take on the tune.

Karayorgis also likes to run the thematic material like veins in marble, blurring the distinction between what’s composed and what’s improvised. This is especially true on his own pieces where the themes are elusive. “Fink Sink Tink”, the only new piece, is typical. The pianist lays it out with a smear of notes, punctuated by sudden jabs. The germ at its core is laced throughout the performance, evident in the tumbling cascades of notes, and emerging at the end in a blues statement.

He even scares up harmonic twists on the old standard “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance”, though he never abandons the song’s melody, which haunts the clusters and the dissonant filigrees. A less common cover, Dolphy’s “Gazzelloni”, proves oddly true to the original from Out to Lunch, if more in its spirit of adventure than in the particular arrangement of notes.

Throughout Seventeen Pieces, Karayorgis pays tribute to those pioneers before him who trekked into uncharted territory, following their footsteps and blazing new trails of his own.
David Dupont, One Final Note, 14 March 2005

Pianist Pandelis Karayorgis has worked with a fairly diverse crew of musicians, including Nate McBride, Joe Maneri, Ken Vandermark, Randy Peterson, Eric Pakula and Curt Newton. For his debut solo recording he elected to cut an album for solo piano.

Although the material is roughly split between original compositions and covers, the covers provide a much closer approximation of pianist Karayorgis' influences and enthusiasms. It’s not often, for example, that Duke Ellington’s “Prelude To A Kiss” is juxtaposed with Eric Dolphy’s “Gazzelloni.” It’s a brave man who even thinks of covering Sun Ra’s “Super Bronze,” and this too is a measure of Karayorgis’ audacity.

The dominant influences are Lennie Tristano and Thelonious Monk, for Karayorgis takes "Baby" at a slow methodical pace sticking closely to the chord changes of "My Melancholy Baby." The influence of Tristano looms large in the self-composed "Background Music." Less surprisingly, Monk is a key reference point as Karayorgis tackles both "Ugly Beauty" and "Criss Cross" with "Just You, Just Me" completing the trilogy of Monk-related tunes.

But, as with the Tristano reference point, Karayorgis has evolved his own signature that is more than the sum of its parts. His Monkish take on Victor Young's "I don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You," which he first recorded in 1998 with Guillermo Gregorio, shows a propensity for reinvention that is inspiring.
Hugh Gregory, DownBeat, May 2005

Seventeen Pieces is another debut album of solo piano. Karayorgis has worked with many of the new musicians - Mat Maneri, Tony Malaby, Ken Vandermark and has often led a trio with Nate McBride and Randy Peterson or Curt Newton - but he's taken the leap of solo faith and recorded a set of his thoughtful originals along with his interpretations of works by 'modern' music masters and standards. His own tunes take on the sonorities of the keyboard and the harmonies and textures of contemporary 'classical' music and improvisation. The takes on music of Monk, Ellington, Dolphy, Tristano, Marsh, Ra - well, these are something else again. The notable themes powerfully and tightly launch other thoughts and directions while retaining a strong sense of the magic of the originals. Dig the slow take on Tristano's "Baby", itself based on "My Melancholy Baby". The experiment here works as a kind of Tristano etude but also as a dazzling new piece of music. And get a glimpse of how he plays with "Just Me, Just You", here related to Monk's own arrangement of the standard. Karayorgis' music lets you in little by little and it's a real trip to discover the adventures therein.
Donald Elfman, All About Jazz, March 2006, No. 47

Achim Kaufmann, KNIVES, Leo CD LR 409
Pandelis Karayorgis, SEVENTEEN PIECES, Leo CD LR 417
Solo albums aren't all that easy to bring off, and solo piano albums are no exception. Maybe Keith Jarrett would disagree, but among all his boxes upon boxes of solo stuff there's only about an hour and a half worth listening to. The near-simultaneous appearance on the same label – Leo – of these individual offerings from two pianists who have hitherto worked only with small ensembles provides us with a good opportunity to survey and compare the work of Achim Kaufmann and Pandelis Karayorgis, and try once more to re-explore the territory between jazz and improv, somewhere in the middle of which an imaginary boundary lies – with one of these albums on either side of it. (...) The difference between Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, according to a splendid documentary on the life and work of the former that came my way recently as a bonus DVD with my copy of An American In Paris, was that Astaire's centre of gravity was higher than Kelly's; the same might be said of Kaufmann compared to Pandelis Karayorgis. Not that Karayorgis is heavy-handed – far from it: his reading of Warne Marsh's "Background Music" is loose-limbed and supple – but, like Monk, he tends to treat the piano as what it is first and foremost: a percussion instrument. Seventeen Pieces, his first solo release, is his sixth outing on Leo (after three splendid Leo Lab dates including Heart and Sack with Nate McBride and Randy Peterson, and the trio Blood Ballad and the quintet Disambiguation) and according to the liner notes it's a project Karayorgis been working on and up to for a number of years. It's not surprising then to come across a selection of material that charts his development so far, from Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss" via Lennie Tristano's "Baby " to Dolphy's "Gazzelloni". Monk's in there, of course – "Ugly Beauty" and a cunning reading of "Criss Cross" – as is Sun Ra ("Super Bronze"), but apart from a couple of other old chestnuts the music is by Karayorgis himself. Mengelberg once more comes to mind, not only because of the Monk connection, but because Karayorgis is quite happy if need be to let his explorations lead him off the beaten track (though he usually manages to find his way back to the footpath before too long, whereas Misha is often quite content to remain plunking away obstinately in the undergrowth, sometimes never coming back in at all). Throughout, that centre of gravity remains low: Karayorgis has little time for the top octaves – ethereal tinkling is most definitely not his thing – nor does he go for the clusters and fisticuffs that Kaufmann occasionally indulges in. From a technical point of view Seventeen Pieces is a much more straight ahead affair than Knives, and one not afraid to use the J word (jazz), either; but Karyorgis's way of working his material is just as advanced as Kaufmann's. His version of "Gazzelloni" is as masterly as his cover of "Miss Ann" on Heart and Sack (and not many musicians have got the balls to tackle that thorny head), finding and exploring the common ground between Dolphy and Monk – all angles and corners, a world where interval counts more than pitch – and he can approach a standard like "I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You" in a thoroughly oblique and constructivist manner without sounding in any way deliberately ironic or subversive. Karayorgis's originals are as strong and memorable as Kaufmann's extemporisations, and there's little to choose between Kaufmann's reading of Nichols and Karayorgis's covers. In fact, there's no point comparing these two albums any more. You need them both.—DW
Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic Magazine, 3/05

Boston-based pianist, Pandelis Karayorgis, has worked with Joe and Mat Maneri, Ken Vandermark, Tony Malaby and Gregorio Guillermo and can be heard on some ten discs on (mostly) Leo, as well as a few on Hatology, Cadence and Boxholder. This is his first solo piano effort and covers some 17 songs by Monk, Tristano, Warne Marsh, Sun Ra, Eric Dolphy, Duke Ellington, as well as about half original compositions. Pandelis is quite the inventive pianist and each piece explores a wide variety of themes, ideas, dynamics and re-interpretations of standards. His own compositions are just as interesting and diverse as the tunes he covers. Both the darker Tristano ("Baby") and the quick Marsh ("Background Music") pieces show some impressive two-handed dexterity, with a couple of themes moving in different directions. A few of the original compositions remind me of Ran Blake in the way that they are angular and filled with surprising twists and turns. It is rare to hear someone covering Sun Ra's "Super Bronze", an interesting bebop blues thing that Pandelis does well by adding his own spice and even more rare to hear someone cover Dolphy's "Gazzelloni" which gets an impressive two-handed Monkish treatment. This is well-selected program which shows many of Mr Karayorgis' talents as the gifted pianist that he is.
BLG, Downtown Music Gallery, New York, NEWSLETTER - March 25th, 2005

It's hard to believe that this is pianist Pandelis Karayorgis's first solo piano CD. The modern jazz luminary has previously focused on collaborative ventures, but "Seventeen Pieces" demonstrates his riveting solo style, strong original compositions, and a number of interesting interpretations of the avant jazz equivalent of "standards".

In his originals, Karayorgis shares a certain affinity with one of the artists that he covers here: Thelonious Monk. His version of Monk's "Ugly Beauty", as well as a trope on the Monk arrangement of "Just You, Just Me", present spiky dissonances, rickety swing and angular leaps with considerable authenticity. Karayorgis tunes like "In the Cracks of Four" and "Straight Blues" evoke similar licks and post-bop affinities. The pianist's chops are more fluid than the inimitable Mr. Monk, as demonstrated by some of his other covers: consider his limpid traversal of cool jazzer Lenny Tristano's "Baby" and his florid filigrees on Wayne Marsh's "Background Music". Still, Monk's visionary music-making certainly serves as a significant touchstone.

When Sun Ra's "Super Bronze", rendered in such a singular manner, was recorded in 1956, who would have thought it would ever be interpreted by others as a modern jazz "standard" (saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase has tackled this one too)? Here, again, Karayorgis shares his enthusiasm for the original version of the piece, as well as a chameleon-like ability to inhabit its composer's style, without ever letting these influences overwhelm his own very personal interpretive contributions. Even on a tune like Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss", which Karayorgis goes against the sentimental grain to render in a postmodern kind of deconstruction, presents an intriguing and compelling argument for this pianist as an interpreter of works by other composers.

That said, "Seventeen Pieces" is equally memorable for its presentation of original material. Karayorgis's lyrical pieces are particularly strong; they're more concert works than ballads. "Summer" and "Home" are filled with delicately disjunct linear counterpoint. At once digressive and captivating, they are strong contributions to the avant jazz canon, and would be potential "new standards" if they weren't so inimitable in their own way. "Seventeen Pieces" is an ideal compilation of old-modern and postmodern, of stirring performances and artistic vision. As such, it is highly recommended listening.
Christian Carey

Pianist Pandelis Karayorgis channels formidable influences through his fingertips on his first solo recording, Seventeen Pieces. He presents a mixture of modern jazz standards and originals, many of which he has recorded before in ensemble contexts. However, his solo versions provide fresh perspectives on this material, presenting a pianist who is both innovative and solidly cognizant of tradition.

Two Thelonious Monk tunes are featured: "Ugly Beauty" and "Criss Cross." While Karayorgis's sound is never quite as acerbic and percussive as the early modern jazz icon, his chord voicings, both on these standards and in his own compositions, bear a striking resemblance to Monk's harmonic choices. His rendition of the Wayne Marsh tune "Background Music" is scintillating, with cascading runs that exploit a great deal of the piano's compass. Even a venerable chestnut like Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss" sounds refreshed here, filled with secundal stabs, fistfuls of complex mixed-interval chords, and angularly digressive melodic solos. Sun Ra also receives suitable homage, in a swinging and effusive rendering of his composition "Super Bronze."

The originals are considerable appealing too. "Fink Sink Tink," displays Karayorgis playing brilliantly fast two-handed runs and post-bop swinging single lines. "Home" is an expansive modern piece which combines piquant dissonances, delicate melodic threads, and clustered chordal thumps. With the variety and quality that this release boasts, the only thing that most listeners may wonder is, "When's solo album number two's release date?"
Christian Carey, The Daily Copper

Schon auf seinen letzten Aufnahmen hat sich Pandelis Karayorgis als ein Pianist zwischen Monk und Tristano empfohlen. Nun liegt von dem aus Griechenland stammenden Musiker eine erste Soloeinspielung vor. Auf dieser sind, fast zwangsläufig möchte man meinen, seine Epigonen noch gegenwärtiger als zuvor. Gleichzeitig wird hier aber auch das eigene musikalische Vokabular des Pianisten deutlich. Wie er die Zeit verzögert, raffiniert mit dem Rhythmus jongliert, die melodischen Anteile der Kompositionen zu flüchtigen Kürzen komprimiert, das klingt nicht nur selbstbewusst, sondern zeigt die Hintergründigkeit, mit der sich Karayorgis der Tradition widmet. Manches wirkt dabei wie harmonisches Stückwerk, zwischen Interpretation und Improvisation. Ein solistisches Werk voller Finessen und fast erfüllten Sehnsüchten.
Jörg Konrad, Jazzzeitung, 2005/3

Pandelis, un pianiste qui constamment s'infiltre dans l'aventure. Il s'élance pour la première fois en solo, avec une aisance particulière. Cette fois, son discours est d'une grande témérité. II exerce dans une modernité remarquable les reprises de Monk, Tristano, Marsh, Dolphy, mais aussi ses compositions qui sont d'une beauté singulière. L'emotion est là, profonde et cachée. On comprend qu'il soit plébiscité dans sa ville de Boston. Un garçon qui maîtrise l'aventure moderne avec un reel talent qui impressionne.
Jazz Notes (France)

Pour le pianiste grec Pandelis Karayorgis cet album solo est le premier du genre. Exigeant, il garde à l'esprit un grand sens harmonique hérité de son travail sur les standards. Le musicien a joué par le passé les thèmes présentés sur cet opus en groupe avec notamment Randy Peterson, Mat Maneri, Joe Maneri, Ken Vandermark, Tony Malabay, Michael Formanek ... Le travail présenté sur Seventeen Pieces laisse la possibilité au musicien grec d'explorer de nouvelles facettes, de repousser encore plus les limites de sa propre création. L'expérience est donc enrichissante à plus d'un titre. La ré-interprétation de Baby de Lennie Tristano, jouée ici sur un tempo lent – qui contraste avec la version originale – démontre tout le talent et l'audace de ce musicien qui n'hésite pas à partager sa passion pour les standards tout en proposant une approche moderne et personelle. Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Eric Dolphy sont déclinés ici; le pianiste offre aussi une palette de thèmes personnels qui révèlent son sens de la composition. Une découverte.
JP- JazzoSphère #24 (France)

Editora fundada em Londres por um antigo exilado da União Soviética, Leo Feigin, a Leo Records começou por ser o veículo de divulgação no Ocidente do novo jazz que se praticava no então Bloco de Leste, sobretudo o russo e os das repúblicas entretanto surgidas do desmembramento da URSS. Depressa, no entanto, tomou uma dimensão transnacional e nomes das mais diversas geografias foram surgindo no seu catálogo, muitos deles totalmente desconhecidos ou pouco ouvidos fora dos seus países (ou até dentro). Com estas quatro edições que têm o solo como ponto comum, esse esforço continua. Graças às suas colaborações com músicos como Mat Maneri, Nate McBride, Randy Peterson, Ken Vandermark ou Guillermo Gregorio, entre muitos outros, não será esse o caso de Pandelis Karayorgis, pianista de ascendência grega mas com currículo norte-americano (foi aluno, nem mais nem menos, de Paul Bley, Joe Maneri, George Russell e Jimmy Giuffre). «Seventeen Pieces» dá conta do seu forte enraízamento na história do jazz, com interpretações de peças de Thelonious Monk, Lennie Tristano, Sun Ra, Duke Ellington e Eric Dolphy que, se são iluminadas por uma perspectiva contemporânea e de grande abertura, respeitam integralmente os pressupostos originais de tais composições. Muitas delas fazem parte já do repertório básico do jazz interpretativo, mas este está longe de ser o clássico disco de “standards”. A forma como equaciona passado e presente é tudo menos comemorativa.
Rui Eduardo Paes

A new name to me but Karayorgis has, according to the sleeve notes. worked with Nate McBride, Joe Maneri, Ken Vandermark, Randy Peterson, Eric Pakula and Curt Newton, among others, which is a fairly diverse crew. So for his debut solo recording he has elected to cut an album for solo piano. Although the material is roughly split between original compositions and covers, it is the covers that give a much closer approximation of his influences and enthusiasms. It is not often, for example, that Ellington's "Prelude to A Kiss" is juxtaposed with Eric Dolphy's "Gazzelloni'', indeed it is a brave t man who even thinks of taking on Sun Ra's "Super Bronze". The strongest influence would seem to he Lennie Tristano, for Karayorgis takes "Baby" at a slow methodical pace sticking closely to the chord changes of "My Melancholy Baby". The influence of Tristano looms large in the self-composed "Background Music''. This is an excellent set and you should probably try to lay your hands on it.

Quirkiness personified, April 15, 2005
This is Karayorgis's first solo piano album. Listeners may be reminded of a Ran Blake solo recital--the spare, brief, revisionist readings of a very personal selection of tunes & a few originals--though Karayorgis's light, curiously distracted touch at the piano is very different from Blake's dark-hued stoicism. Karayorgis touches on all his household idols: there's a couple Monk tunes, some tunes by & in tribute to Duke Ellington, a couple tunes from the Tristanoite zone, a few standards ("Ghost of a Chance"--a fave of both Tristano & Monk--& "Just You Just Me", delivered in an arrangement overtly indebted to Monk), a Dolphy tune, a Sun Ra blues, & a few of the pianist's original pieces, most of them also blues. He delivers them without any conventional swing feel--instead he prefers a delicate, jumbled counterpoint between the two hands, like some pointillist version of Tristano's solo recordings. The results are a bit of an acquired taste (if you want a more accessible Karayorgis album, try _Disambiguation_ with Tony Malaby & Mat Maneri) but if you're on Karayorgis's wavelength it's definitely an album to check out.
Nate Dorward

With "Seventeen Pieces" Boston pianist Pandelis Karayorgis turns in one of the most unusual solo piano recitals of recent years, a set of quizzical miniatures in which he plays cat and mouse with tunes by Lennie Tristano, Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and Eric Dolphy, plus a couple standards and some ultraoblique originals. Karayorgis’s touch is curiously finicky, the notes registering like tiny flecks, dots and flickers that he marshals into a delicately jumbled two-handed counterpoint. The results are rather like a Ran Blake album that’s been reduced to a heap of pebbles (Karayorgis, like Blake, loves to end pieces with a enigmatic anticlimax). The teasing, elusive nature of the music can sometimes verge on coyness, but there’s no doubt that Karayorgis is a true original: "Seventeen Pieces" is an album with the devious, glimmering weightlessness of a spiderweb.
Nate Dorward, Exclaim, May 2005

In the sixties, modernist canvases by the likes of Picasso, Mondrian and Miro graced a lot of jazz album covers, often upstaging the more tentative, commercial music within. Seventeen Pieces has a rather conventional cover (a silhouette of seventeen fingers), which is too bad, because the tight and twittery music of pianist Pandelis Karayorgis would have fit in quite well with an eyeball on a stalk, a cloud of ink scratches or a mysterious ovoid mass. With his constant bending of melody and meter, Karayorgis plays seventeen games of musical mumblety-peg, dancing around the heart of a tune like a hooligan's knife skittering around a sweating hand. When he sinks into warm flesh - as when the melody of Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss" suddenly bursts through for a few seconds - it hurts like a stab, and you actually find yourself wanting it out so the game can resume. "Centennial" a haunting tribute to Ellington, is so refracted it's hard to tell whether Karayorgis is dropping Ellington touches or touching Ellington droppings. The tone throughout the disc, with the exception of Eric Dolphy's "Gazzelloni," is dynamically hemmed in, like a tape when it's fast-forwarded. Indeed, so restless and facile is Karayorgis' technique that it often sounds as if he's zipping through some immense songbook in his head making emotional connection difficult until some newly discovered de-compression software in the listener's head comes into play.
Larry Cosentino, Signal To Noise, March 2005

Through the latter half of the 20th century, an enduring cult figure in modern jazz was the Boston-based composer, academic, and pianist Ran Blake. In addition to his duties as the Chair of Contemporary Improvisation at the New England Conservatory of Music, Blake has recorded sporadically, usually in solo or duo settings, creating a small but knotty category of near-abstract originals and quirky deconstructions of jazz standards. This is worth mentioning, because on first listen (if not second or third), the first solo album by bandleader/pianist Pandelis Karayorgis sounds startlingly like one of Ran Blake's solo records. It's worth noting that Karayorgis has two degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music, although his official bio names Paul Bley as his primary teacher and inspiration. Bley is certainly present in these settings, as is the familiar choppy, percussive style of Thelonious Monk, whose "Ugly Beauty" and "Criss Cross" are idiosyncratically reworked. But just as Blake does, Karayorgis has a unique style as a solo pianist. Just a little over half of these 17 pieces are post-bop standards by Monk, Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, Sun Ra, Eric Dolphy, and Duke Ellington, among others. Karayorgis ignores standard rhythms almost entirely on these songs, interspersing long legato phrases, brief passages of near-silence, and sudden bursts of musical energy that suggest a piano version of John Coltrane's sheets of sound approach. Ironically, it's Sun Ra's "Super Bronze," in its original form the most out-there song among the originals, that Karayorgis turns into the simplest, most immediately approachable tune. Being unfamiliar with Karagorgis' originals makes them sound comparatively more straightforward than the covers, simply because they lack the same sense of surprise. Regardless, Seventeen Pieces is occasionally challenging but always entertaining.
Stewart Mason, All Music Guide (website)

Taking their own good time, the Boston and Chicago pianists featured here have at long last produced solo recordings after literally decades of performances and recordings in group settings.
Was this loss of solo virginity worth the wait? Well, as it would be sexually, the action depends on the individual. While both performances are memorable essays in keyboard virtuosity, the numerical promiscuity displayed may mean the two waited a little too long past their physical maturity.

Pandelis Karayorgis, the Boston pianist whose playing partners have included saxophonist Ken Vandermark and bassist Nate McBride, comes across like someone trying to make up for lost time. As its title indicates, SEVENTEEN PIECES crams that number of tunes into less-than-61 minutes of music. However Karayorgis does produce solo recasting of numbers he has recorded in group settings – tunes by Lennie Tristano, Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk, a couple of standards as well as originals. (...)

In truth there are times when both discs turn a little snoozy, as your admiration for the individual’s technical prowess is coupled with the justifiable fear that the line advanced isn’t going anywhere. Karayorgis, for one, sounds best when his admitted influences enliven his original tunes, or when he unexpectedly melds the style of one fêted keyboard man with the composition of another. His own “Centennial”, for example, a slow-moving, low-frequency fantasia is dedicated to Duke Ellington. Yet the Stride-like inferences in his layering makes it as much as a Monk homage as one for Ellington. Meanwhile, his hesitant, key-stabbing performance of another original – “Blood Ballad” – ends up sounding more like Tristano than the older pianist himself.

When he delves into familiar Ellingtonia, the process is even clearer. Diffidently voiced “Prelude To A Kiss”, which invokes contrasting dynamics and uneven voicing, ends up suggesting how Tristano or Monk may have approached the maestro’s work, not the Duke himself.

Taken quicker than usual, “Just You, Just Me” – usually titled as Monk’s contrafact “Evidence” – features shuffled pianism, as Karayorgis’ darts over the keys, mixing higher register cadenzas with contrasting right handed lines. He also manages to slip in a couple of references to “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”. Then there’s his version of Ra’s “Super Bronze”, which, rather than sounding far-out, is revealed as the bop-like blues it is. His treatment of it as a moderato, kinetic étude easily exposes the Arkestra leader’s links to earlier jazz.

Those are some of SEVENTEEN PIECES highlights, and overall, some other blues and ballads are pretty impressive too. But if only Karayorgis had expressed himself in greater scope somewhere on the disc. (...)

All in all, the pianists show that like love-making first-time actions – in this case solo – aren’t always as satisfying as they, and we expected. Profligate licentious and selective promiscuity may not be the perfect solution for solo piano, but they’re certainly more appealing and inspired then thwarted self-expression. As they refine their techniques both men could end up in Monk’s or Tristano’s class, though likely not in Casanova’s.
Ken Waxman, Jazz Weekly.Com

Nach der Handvoll Soli im letzten Heft steht hier nur die Solo-Piano-Aufnahme Seventeen Pieces (LR 417) von PANDELIS KARAYORGIS zur Debatte. Zur Hälfte Standards, alles andere Eigenkompositionen, sind mit einer einzigen Ausnahme - ‚Fink Sink Tink‘ - alle Stücke nicht als Stoff für Monologe entstanden. ‚In The Cracks Of Four‘, ‚Straight Blues‘ und ‚Blood Ballad‘, ein Epitaph für Billy Strayhorn, gehören zum Repertoire seines Trios mit dem Spaceways-Inc.-Bassisten Nate McBride & Randy Peterson. ‚Disambiguation‘ und ‚Home‘ waren im Quintett mit Mat Maneri zu hören. Bei den Interpretierten ist Monk vertreten mit ‚Ugly Beauty‘, ‚Criss Cross‘ und seinem Arrangement von ‚Just You, Just Me‘. ‚Gazzelloni‘ stammt von Dolphy, ein Stück von Out To Lunch und ein Favorit bei mi3, Karayorgis Trio mit McBride & Curt Newton. Und ‚Super Bronze‘ ist ein Bop-Blues von Sun Ra. Dazu vertieft sich Karayorgis in ‚Prelude to A Kiss‘ von Ellington, dem auch der Hundertjahrsgruß ‚Centennial‘ gilt. Mit diesem Goldie verbindet sich auch eine Reminiszenz an Joe Maneri, der es ebenfalls als ungewöhnliches Pianosolo für In Full Cry eingespielt hat, während die Erinnerung mit dem Victor-Young-Evergreen ‚I Don‘t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance‘ bei Guillermo Gregorio einkehrt, mit dem er es aufgenommen hat für dessen Red Cube(d). Und mit ‚Baby‘ von Tristano und ‚Background Music‘ von Warne Marsh wird ein Akzent auf die Tristanoschule gesetzt, eine Tradition, an die Karayorgis über seinen Pianolehrer in Boston, den Tristanoschüler Harvey Diamond, direkt anknüpft. So wie Karayorgis seine Version von ‚Ghost Of A Chance‘ mit Gedanken an Billie Holiday und Ran Blake unterfüttert, so verbindet sich mit all seinen Monologen eine mehrfach codierte Aboutness, einerseits als Referenzen und Querverweise innerhalb der Jazzgeschichte und gleichzeitig durch persönliche Gefühlsfäden. Karayorgis ist der Prototyp eines ‚denkenden‘ Musikers, der sein Material abspeckt und dehydriert bis auf die Essenzen. Nur ist dann dieses durchgeistigte und erinnerungssatte Konzentrat verschmolzen mit gefühlsintensiver Musik- und Lebenserfahrung. Wie auch bei den minimalistisch-markanten Motiven von Schlippenbach, bei Mengelberg, Blake und Paul Bley hat man es hier mit einer Pianomusik zu tun, die ohne überflüssige Töne auskommt, mit einer Musik, die erst bei Dämmerung zu fliegen beginnt.
Bad Alchemy #46, März 2005


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