Recorded 19th March 1998 at WGBH Studio, Boston. Liner notes date from October 1998.
One of the most interesting things about this solo date of Guillermo Gregorio - late of Franz Koglmann's Pipetet - is how similar his original music sounds to Mat Maneri's. There is no doubt they are kindred spirits, given that they both hold contemporary classical music and jazz in a double bind, forcing them ever closer together despite the individual resistance of each music. Both are also keen improvisers who believe in the power of understatement and rounded edges - and Maneri is a violinist! All of this said, this is a curiously beautiful recording. Maybe it's the abstraction and montage technique used on Gregorio's originals such as "Slipped Fifths," "Woodchopper's Nightmare," or "Red Skies," in which the strange becomes familiar, or the melodic. Or perhaps it's asymmetrical, dissonant readings of the classics here, such as Fletcher Henderson's "Red Dust," Red Norvo and Flip Phillips' "1-2-3-Jump!," or "Chu's Specter: Ghost of a Chance" written by Bing Crosby and cohorts. No matter, the record is somewhat disorienting, though charmingly so. A lot will be made of how new this all is. What is new is that a record by a trio such as this would be made at all. Here are three very understated payers, performing a difficult brand of musical hijinks, where improvisation, compositions, and different classifications attempt to become one, rather than co-exist as comfortable opposites. The odd timbres and overtones created by Maneri's violin playing counterpoint to both Gregorio and Karayorgis simultaneously are lovely, as are Gregorio's instincts: he knows just when to let the melody through between harmonies - which shift - and improvisation. It's obvious he longs to be an arranger - and should be. But this is music that is tender yet not mature enough to speak with a full voice. It's a good bet that the well will get much deeper before too long.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
These 1998 performances are part of a continuing process of growth which has gone on over at least ten years, and probably much longer. So far as one can tell from recordings, it reaches back to Guillermo Gregorio's playing the alto saxophone in Franz Koglmann's Pipetet on Orte Der Geometrie [hatArt 6018], The Use of Memory [hatArt 6078], and Cantos [hatArt 6123]. Those recordings were made in Vienna, but in due course Gregorio moved to the United States, where he has gone in a direction very much his own. At least, the use of elements of jazz along with elements of contemporary classical music in a close and shifting relationship seems to have results unlike anything being attempted elsewhere.
In fact there is a double integration here, between aspects of contemporary classical music and jazz, and between the players taking part. All three were together on Gregorio's 1995 CD, Approximately [hatArt 6184], which included two additional musicians, Eric Pakula (alto and tenor saxophones) and John Lockwood (bass). On his next record, Ellipsis [hatOLOGY 511] of 1997, Gregorio had a different team and he played tenor saxophone besides his clarinet and alto sax. With him were Carrie Biolo on vibraphone, Gene Coleman on bass clarinet, Jim O'Rourke on acoustic guitar and accordion, and Michael Cameron on bass. However, in this most recent music, Gregorio, Karayorgis, and Maneri are alone together.
It is necessary to emphasize the progressive integration of these three players because Gregorio's music has over the last several years grown outwardly more fragmented and discontinuous. The result is an altogether individual version of jazz-inflected music while at the same time it makes numerous references, somehow both covert and specific, to the past of jaz,z. And it is no great surprise that these allude to a period when jazz was in a state of transition. The music's outward fragmentation is such that its reference in several pieces to themes from the time when swing was turning itself into bop are not easy to grasp-nor is the glance towards Stravinsky's Petroushka in Lost Weekend- especially during one's first few hearings.
The echoes of themes from those swing-to-bop originals are not so much arranged as recomposed, and the recomposing is acted upon by the collective improvisations of three musicians who are very much in tune with each other. There should be no undue overemphasis on either the recomposing (reshaping) or improvisational aspects of these performances because, as is usually the case in the best music, each piece discovers its own form during the course of its unfolding.
In each of the seven instances where this music contains references to past jazz, what little has been retained from earlier times is now shown in a completely different light. Which is to say the old material finds itself in utterly different musical circumstances from those which pertained when the original pieces were first played. Indeed, it might be said that whatever survives from the past is here shown in a number of contrasting perspectives-perhaps not unlike the way that in a cubist painting an object may be seen from two or more angles simultaneously.
Also, Gregorio's music, through its shifting perspectives on small, perhaps only half-remembered musical objects, offers some kind of insight on the elusive ways the passage of time affects our recollection of events which are now rather distant. The older pieces are alluded to rather than quoted directly, and even the most lynx-eared listener will find the allusions oblique. This is particularly the case with the two popular ballads, These Foolish Things and the one called Chu's Spectre, which reach back to a time before bop. The latter refers to Chu Berry's improvisation on / Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You, which he recorded with Cab Calloway's band in 1940. On this Gregorio plays tenor, as he also does on These Foolish Things, which takes its point of reference from Lester Young's 1945 recording under his own name. Tempting though it may have been to do otherwise, Gregorio does not quote from either of those masterly solos and what he plays instead alludes to the impression they made on him.
Something closer to direct quotation is found, though only for brief moments, in Woodchopper's Nightmare, which makes glancing references to Arnold Fishkin's Headhunters, Shorty and Woody Herman's Blowin' Up A Storm-in other words, items either associated with Herman's First Herd or with recordings of small ensembles by musicians involved with it. Four other pieces approach comparable material in a rather similar way, and these are 1-2-3-4 Jump and Lost Weekend (also known as The Sergeant On Furlough) both by Norvo and Phillips, Chuck Wayne's Cottontop and, presumably the oldest in origin, Fletcher Henderson's Red Dust.
Henderson does not appear to have recorded this with his own band, and Gregorio came across it in a 1944 Red Norvo sextet performance initially done for V-Disc and now reissued on CD. That was where he also encountered 1-2-3-4 Jump and a version of Blues Skies which contributed a background figure to Gregorio's Red Skies. This along with Slipped Fifths grew out of Gregorio's own themes, while Crimson Mountain, A Study in Scarlet, and Ana's Lullaby are jointly credited to him, Karayorgis, and Maneri, being the result of interactions between them. In fact this music is chiefly a matter of instant responses by each to the other two, although there are what might almost be described as formally arranged passages by Gregorio in Red Dust, Slipped Fifths, Red Skies, Cotton top, and even Woodchopper's Nightmare.
Certainly these performances contain elements which do not appear to relate to jazz, and some listeners will be sure that it is no such thing. Yet nearly as old as the music itself is the tradition of jazz absorbing thoughts, practices, techniques from elsewhere. In Gregorio's hands it has now achieved an extraordinary concentration, with scarcely a gesture, hardly a note, wasted.
When, at the suggestion of Werner Uehlinger, I began to consider working on a project based on several recently (re)discovered pieces by Red Norvo from the '40s, a thought assaulted me: "What can I do with the music better than listen to the records and enjoy them?" Werner knew (we had talked during some breaks between hectic rehearsals in Vienna several years earlier) that when I was a teenager, after the initial shock of my hearing records by Pee Wee Russell, Jimmie Noone, Max Kaminsky, Bud Freeman, and other outstanding Chicago musicians and even before exploring the magnificence of Armstrong, Dodds, Oliver, and Morton, I had a brief but intense involvement with records by the so-called Wood-choppers circle. He knew that I was fascinated with soloists like Sonny Berman, Billy Bauer, Flip Phillips, Bill Harris and, of course, Red Norvo. The more or less sophisticated arrangements by Shorty Rogers [Igor and Steps) and Ralph Burns (Nocturne and Pam) were for me, at that time, the opening to another kind of experience-the appreciation of voicing and harmonies, a suggestive kind of sound. But that was in my teens. Now, with completely different interests and expectati ons, involved in musical experiences in con texts so different from those times (and from jazz itself), my having another look at that kind of music seemed funny. But the reintroduction proved to be interesting, anyway. I discovered new aspects of that music, and I got the opportunity to reflect on other things related to it.
Since we normally place these pieces in the category of swing music, we face a dilemma at this point. The Swing Era is thought by many to have been a period of superficial, stereotyped music, filled with cliches and heavily linked to commercialism- which is partly true. But processes are far more complicated and non-linear than we believe. It is also true that the Swing Era was one of creativity and experimentation in many ways. First of all, those times were the beginning of racial integration in music; a fact important enough in itself. Swing music was a real popular phenomenon of vast implications, and many musicians and promoters were politically involved, envisioning a project of radical democracy. Swing music became not only an anti-fascist symbol, but also that of a more extended egalitarian conception. It was a music still free of the suspiciousness and pressures of the Cold War Era to come. (For more on these topics, see Lewis A. Erenberg's Swingin' The Dream, University of Chicago Press, and David W. Stowe's Swing Changes, Harvard University Press.) Then too, in spite of some very respectable criticisms (which were true to a large extent), the period of the Swing Era was one of creativity more than just uniformity and repetition. Any solo by Lester Young, Chu Berry, Roy Eldridge, Teddy Wilson, or Charlie Christian is a real work of art, and the small groups were laboratories for the elaboration of ideas. In his autobiography, Billy Bauer wrote: "In those days Flip (Phillips) and I would go up to a hotel room to play. To keep it quiet we'd put a blanket over our heads. Clarinet and guitar-no tunes, just sounds. What they'd later call 'free music' " It is possible to hear something of that in the beginning and end of the original recordings of Headquarters (Keynote) and Skyscraper (Signature), as well as rhythmic and incipient polytonal experiments in other Norvo and Woodchoppers titles, and later in the fabulous Lennie Tristano trio's Keynote recordings. It was an epoch of transition and fluidity open to many possibilities. Of all of these possibilities, bebop was not perhaps the most adventurous or interesting consequence, but ... that's the way it was.
Back to the proposed project. I decided finally to look at this phenomenon from my experience and interests today (is there any other possible way?), to work with the ideas of openness, fluidity, and transition, and see the object from many angles and points of view. Probably (I thought) the resulting music could have the same kind of relationship with the original musical object as the Portrait of Albert Gleizes by Jean Metzinger has to the photography of Albert Gleizes-or something similar to that. A new musical object will appear, but with an inherent constraint, since some aspect of the previous object will still be present in some way. To work with that constraint was finally more exciting than confining. After all, any process of ideation is no different from that, since the external world is always in the ground in some way, even when we confront invention. With that idea in mind, what better than to work with such extremely capable inventors and transformers as Pandelis Karayorgis and Mat Maneri? They can re-create and re-define any kind of musical object, and much more.
These Foolish Things and Chu's Spectre are dedicated to Lester Young and Chu Berry respectively. Lester was a genius and a real heroic figure of those times; he invented something else. Chu Berry was one of the greatest tenor players in history, still very underrated. Red Dust, attributed to Fletcher Henderson, is an homage to that great arranger, who also had a great insight about modern music. While the first two are re-interpretations of two standards, including vague traces of solos by the two tenor giants, Red Dust was arranged by cutting (literally) the piece in vertical strips and re-assembling them; an insistent riff from tho Norvo version appears interrupting the theme sequence. The notated score was then split to intercalate graphic material, collective improvisation, and other events. Woodchopper's Nightmare, mom than a collage or collection of quotations from various pieces, is the way that a bunch of recollections appeared to me, blurred by tin io. (Were those pieces really in that way?) Lost Weekend was dedicated to Pandelis Karayorgis, who through his amazing playing iterpreted it with lucid ingenuity and strength, departing from a virtual graph score. Ana's Lullaby was improvised in the studio as a dedication to Pandelis' newborn daughter, and is an example of the skills developed by our trio-improvised collaboration which has a definite compositional intention.
I think it is not necessary to point out the excellent playing by Mat and Pandelis. I only want to express my happiness for playing with them and my gratitude to them for working ho creatively on material that must have seemed even more strange to their world of experience than it was to my own.