Pandelis Karayorgis

Blood Ballads

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With Blood Ballad, Greek-born and Boston-based pianist Pandelis Karayorgis graduated from Leo Records' Laboratory series, where he published his first three records, to the label's regular line. This is the second CD to feature this trio, with Nate McBride on bass and Randy Peterson on drums. Tighter and more diverse than Heart and Sack, it is also paradoxically a little less exciting. Karayorgis' sense of melody and harmony truly are his own; his playing is as immediately identifiable as Mat Maneri, another Bostonian and regular acolyte. On this album, the pianist pays tribute to some of his heroes: Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington each get a piece inspired by their work. The Strayhorn-derived title track may be the most surprising moment on the CD, showcasing a much more pensive and tender Karayorgis. The set ends on an inspired rendition of John Coltrane's "One Up, One Down"; the piano reveals how close the saxophonist and Thelonious Monk could be sometimes. If McBride remains discreet, Peterson does a great job, his precise sloppiness behind the kit providing the perfect motor for the pianist's impressionistic touches. Just listen how he reacts to the hammered chords in the opening number, "In the Cracks of Four." The slippery melody in "Ask" provides another highlight.

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