Pandelis Karayorgis Double Trio

Cliff Pools
Driff Records DCD 2002

With the musical strength of a piano Man of Steel pose, Boston-based Pandelis Karayorgis faces two bass and drum teams at the same time on this uncommon CD and molds the quintet into a cohesive balanced Justice League-like unit.

Actually the synergy on the 10 selections here is that both rhythm duos played in combos with the pianist. Bassist Damon Smith and drummer Eric Rosenthal, who singly and together have worked with improvisers such as Taylor Ho Bynum and Alvin Fielder made up the other two-thirds of the Cliff trio; while bassist Nate McBride and drummer Luther Gray, who have histories with the likes of Joe Morris and Ken Vandermark, made up the Pools trio with Karayorgis Here however while the drummers often work providing tandem percussion energy throughout, the bassists as frequently divide contrapuntal output between pizzicato and arco accompaniment and enhancement.

Assiduously creative on his own, the vigor needed in this double trio context often brings out Karayorgis’ relationship to Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Nichols. On “Weft”, for instance, keeping the chromatic theme moving alongside vamping, slapping woody clatters from Rosenthal and Gary, the pianist first rolls out Monkish pumps and soundboard echoes before shifting powerfully up the scale with Tyner-like rolling glissandi. Slippery cantering with Nichols-like reflections informs his solo on “Scale the Firmament”, as his moderato keyboard swirls backed by press rolls slow down later on to give McBride’s wide strumming a focus. At the same time Karayorgis’ ability to create a story telling exposition and swing lightly while urging the theme forward is a virtue thoroughly his own.

The extended “Formed Shed” gives the bassists ample space to create a dialogue of sul tasto swills encompassing string pulls that judder backwards, forwards and sideways. Still Karayorgis’ collection of rolling arpeggios and locked hand variation give that narrative intent and purpose. However it’s on Undertow” that allows the pianist to display commanding directions rather than being dragged down with distractions. Multi-fingered sweeps and lower-pitched pedal power corral exploding drum pops and rolls plus clipping and scratching string work from the bassists into a properly balanced coda.

Tyner, Monk and Nichols helped define advanced trio improvisations. Karayorgis creates a similar definition of how to play facing uniquely inflated accompaniment.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Weft 2. Blue Shadow 3. Plateau 4. Scale the Firmament 5. Cocoon 6. Undertow 7. Warp 8. Formed Shed 9. Catapult 10. Self-Headed

Personnel: Pandelis Karayorgis (piano); Nate McBride and Damon Smith (bass) and Luther Gray and Eric Rosenthal (drums)