For your consideration: four piano trios, each with a different palette of musical colors.
After listening to the MI3 trio’s Free Advice, I am embar¬rassed to say that I missed Pandelis Karayorgis’ delightful playing until now. He has been around, recorded with Ken Vandermark among many others, and has a style all his own that is quite com¬pelling. In fact the entire trio has a definite vibe that manages to project a dynamism and spirit that gives one a real lift. As the CD liner notes explain, they became the house trio at Boston’s Abbey Lounge in 2002 and because there was no piano in the club, Pandelis was obliged to use an electric version. After that experi¬ence and a CD that used that configuration, they return here with an acoustic trio that manages to harness a kind of musical elec¬tricity without the actual voltage. The trio clearly is comfortable together. They listen without imitating one another, while nevertheless complementing what is happening at any point. Drummer Curt Newton fits the group con¬cept well, with a loose, seemingly casual, faux sloppiness that is every moment intentional and creative. McBride of course is one of the accomplished bassists around with a woody tone and direct articulateness. He gets a good amount of space to show what he can do. Pandelis is a terrific pianist. With a zeal for dissonance, a Monk-like abruptness and the controlled freedom of a Paul Bley—hashed together skillfully with pure Pandelis—he is in his element on this disk. With the opening “Mystery Song,” one knows that something special is happening. It’s the old Ellington number done a la Lacy but with more dissonance. Pandelis plays on the various possible harmonizations and intervallic relations as he goes. The group realizes the pulse freely without stating it overtly and it jells per¬fectly. An up abstraction comes into play with “Who Said What When.” With a loose-as-a-goose rhythm backing, Pandelis is all over the place, cascading dissonantly, then building with the rhythm section to a lovely froth. Sun Ra’s “Ankhnaton” has that familiar quasi-Egyptian head and it’s all played with panache, on the foundation of Afro rhythms and an ostinato bass. Pandelis then launches into tart dissonances and crazy post-Bop locked hand blocks. He often plays with clus¬ters of intervals, mostly tighter seconds, thirds, and fourths out of the harmonic logic of the piece at hand, but set free on their own from time to time, playing with the implications and deconstruc¬tions of the melody and harmony. There is an intervallic playfulness, and loose but firey disso¬nance. The MI3 trio isn’t afraid to express it all! If I had the money I would find every recording Pandelis has been on so far. But I don’t. This surely is one of the piano trio disks of the year for me. Jump on it if you dig the inside-out outside-in Freebop that they so masterfully execute.
© Cadence Magazine 2008 www.cadencebuilding.com