April 17, 2019
Harvey Sorgen Joe Fonda Marilyn Crispell
NotTwo MK 977-2
Pandelis Karayorgis Trio
Driff Records CD 1803
Creative Sources CS 495
Time & Space
el NEGOCITO Records eNR084
With a history now as old as Rock’n’Roll, but unlike that inward turning genre, the Jazz piano trio continues to be a method of original expression for many players. Without altering its basic shape, savvy musicians can use the format to be as traditional or as ingenious as possible. Luckily the 12 players on these discs – two American and two European trios – excel on the latter path.
Athens-born, Boston-based pianist Pandelis Karayorgis for instance, who has worked with players like Steve Swell and Mat Maneri, uses the four tracks on Cliff for open-ended improvisations. The pianist’s strategies range from rapid ringing chords in a Free Jazz-like fashion to more ruminative hunt-and-peck creations, and he’s easily partnered with locals, bassist Damon Smith and drummer Eric Rosenthal, who have equivalent exploratory music experience. Kinetic, the speedy “Trio 1” melds into high-level connections, sweeping glissandi that frequently dip into the lowest registers of the piano, with sympathetic bowing and plucking from the bassist and low-key rumbles from the drummer. In fact when the turnaround leads to near static tones, this is easily taken in stride. This sort of dynamic affinity continues throughout the other selections, with unexpected action from each player promptly recognized and modified to fit the narratives. Rosenthal’s finesse in moving from percussion crunches to near inaudible tones get a proper airing on “Trio 4”, as his rhythm encourages piano key clips and pecks to speed the exposition, further amplified with note splays plus up-to-the scroll string strumming from Smith. Eventually the others’ output wriggles downwards to join with the drummer’s hushed beat variables. Ricocheting from speedy to slow narratives with broken octave replications, the three work sudden sound eruptions, silent pauses and patterning interludes into the program. The nearly 19-minute “Trio 2” is the lengthiest example of this. Initially introspective with contorted, Monk-like detours, half-way through Karayorgis’ concise chromatic flow moves from pointillist connection to bellicose challenges. Keyboard sways, sul ponticello double bass thumps and percussion cracks disrupt the improvisation, until the ending relaxes into a spinning climax of multiple bumps and thumps.
More traditional, at least in a compositional aspect, is Dreamstruck, featuring three Americans, drummer Harvey Sorgen, bassist Joe Fonda and pianist Marilyn Crispell, all of whom are veterans of the Jazz milieu having had long associations with Michel Jefrey Stevens, Anthony Braxton and other like-minded players. In fact the CD is conventional enough to include four straightforward compositions, including the title track. Composed by guitarist/educator Bob Windbiel, "Dreamstruck" is more pleasant than dynamic, showcasing balladic cadences from Crispell. Paul Motian’s “Kalypso”, which closes the disc, sounds more gospel than calypso, but with its insistent groove, ends the program on a high note. Fonda’s two contributions, are “My Song”, a near étude which begins the set and overcomes its slackened delicacy with some of the bassist’s string buzzing; and “Read This’, a more substantial effort. Following an expressive introduction of supple, cadenzas from Crispell, multi-fingered plucks from Fonda and brush swishes and timbre shattering from Sorgen, “Read This” toughens with cross pulsations, especially from the pianist as she drills down from thematic variations, and is matched by urgent drum paradiddles. As for the group instant compositions, each unrolls eloquently and emphatically inflating to individual features. “Area 52” for instance, is mostly Fonda. Epitomizing swing, his high-pitched sweeps lead to a spectacular string slipping and sliding showcase, aided by slick stop-time comping from the pianist. Crispell’s swift interface on “Our Own Tea Leaves”, with its compelling cadences, is subsequently shaded as she chords in tandem with drum socks and sprawls and finally double bass string squirms. Sorgen’s rumbles and pops during the head of “On Bellagio” end with positioned thwacks and a stop-time finale, but not before the pianist’s tremolo energy has created another story-telling tour-de-force.
Crispell may have been maximalist in her playing, but Swiss pianist Roberto Domeniconi is anything but on Quince Dreams’ nine selections. Affiliated with fellow Swiss, drummer Sheldon Suter and electric bassist Jan Schlegel, Domeniconi often strokes the piano’s inner strings in a manner to intersect with the drummer’s ratcheting clatter and the bassist’s intermittent string buzzes. All three are experience players who have worked with the likes of Marco von Orelli, Daniel Studer and Omri Ziegele. Frequently focusing more on mood than movement, occasional undifferentiated textures suffuse most improvisations. Instances such as “Nimbus” and “Dark” confirm this. The latter is a near silent essay on low-pitch key flanges and strokes as bell-like soundboard stings become the focal point of the narrative, sutured with amplified bass hisses and distant percussion slaps. Meanwhile on “Nimbus” Domeniconi shake out piano rumbles that turn to stabbing arpeggios when challenged by Schlegel’s flying whines and Suter’s hefty syncopated patterning. Not all is hushed and understated on the disc however. Both “Die Pauke und das Silber” and “Quittology” include spirited expositions, which in the former instance vibrates into a passing-tones keyboard melody, amplified with bass shudders, but kept moderate with unforced percussion movements. “Quittology” on the other hand doesn’t quit, but instead with its woozy electric bass echoes, drum shuffle and a single, repeated piano pattern could be a Swiss Alps variation on The Necks’ work and ends with concentrated reverberations.
While, using an electric instead of an acoustic bass may be one common variant from the piano trio formula, Belgian pianist Seppe Gebruers comes up with another change on Time & Space by playing simultaneously with each hand two grand pianos tuned a quarter tone apart. The pianist who has been in Bambi Pang Pang and other bands, is joined in The Room by Portuguese in Belgium, Hugo Antunes, who plays prepared and unprepared bass, and veteran German percussionist Paul Lovens, longtime trio partner of Alexander con Schlippenbach and Evan Parker. An instance of The Room’s complex design is best expressed on “Room 5b”. Here Lovens’ ambulatory slaps and Antunes’ spiccato runs urge on the exposition, evenly divided between upwards dynamics from one keyboard and broken chord exploration on the other. Eventually, following auxiliary soundboard rattles and strummed internal strings, an impressionistic theme is revealed that resounds until the end. Supple or speedy note sprinkles or metronomic pacing are used on other tracks, as Gebruers’ playing can be gentle and recital-ready at certain junctures or ruggedly expressive with clipping or uneven clusters on the keys as well as plucks or slides on the inner string set at others. At the same time this isn’t a piano and accompaniment exhibition, but an instance of how ideas can be moved among the trio in a round robin fashion. Parallel to his improvisations are string and wood scraping from the bassist and a collection of perfectly time cymbal clashes or drum top hand-patting that fill the remaining spaces. “Room 2”, the final track, is a pared-down adaptation of the trio program. Sweeps and clanks from the dual keyboards descend to tone hunting and pecking, Antunes contributes fragmented textures and Lovens jerks and joggles the percussion strategy until a blast of supple piano notes and abrasive cymbal rubs combine to end the performance
They may be separated by age, country and experience, but each of these groups has advanced a distinctive variant of the traditional piano trio program.
Track Listing: Cliff: 1. Trio1 2. Trio2 3. Trio3 4. Trio4
Personnel: Cliff: Pandelis Karayorgis (piano); Damon Smith (bass) and Eric Rosenthal (drums)
Track Listing: Dreamstruck: 1. My Song 2. Portrait 3. Landscape 4. Our Own Tea Leaves 5. Dreamstruck 6. Read This 7. Area 52 8. Both Sides of the Ocean 9. On Bellagio 10. Kalypso
Personnel: Dreamstruck: Marilyn Crispell (piano); Joe Fonda (bass) and Harvey Sorgen (drums)
Track Listing: Quince: 1. Scacciapensieri 2. Quittology 3. Notte Bianca 4. Dark 5. Blue Curry 6. Nimbus 7. Autogrill 8. Die Pauke und das Silber 9. Americana 47
Personnel: Quince: Roberto Domeniconi (piano); Jan Schlegel (electric bass) and Sheldon Suter (drums)
Track Listing: Room: 1. Room 6/7 2. Room 3 3. Room 5b 4. Room 2
Personnel: Room: Seppe Gebruers (two grand pianos tuned a quarter tone apart); Hugo Antunes (prepared and unprepared bass) and Paul Lovens (drums, cymbal and gongs)