Giorgi Mikadze Trio
Face to Face – Georgian Songbook Vol. 1
Georgian-born pianist and composer Giorgi Mikadze leads his trio in an exploration of notable Georgian composers in this highly melodic and memorable effort, as Volume One suggests more will follow. Mikadze studied in the U.S. at Berklee and The Manhattan School of Music and honed his chops in NYC with elite jazz musicians such as Jack DeJohnette, Roy Hargrove, Dave Liebman, and others. Like most pianists, he is well grounded in the Great American Songbook but decided that it made more sense for him to master the melodies of his homeland. He has done so on previous recordings, 2020’s Georgian Microjamz as well as in other live performances in Europe but this is his first on jazz terms, and his first in the piano trio format. The album was recorded in France and features the renowned French bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Raphael Pannier.
These Georgian classical tunes are from the twentieth century with an emphasis on the ‘60s through the ‘80s with composers Sulkhan Tsintsadze, Giya Kancheli, Jansug Kakhidze, Nodar Gabunia, and others featured along with some of Mikadze’s original compositions. Mikadze opens with his own rollicking, start-stop rhythmic “Satchidao,” a well-known melody sung during wrestling matches. It doesn’t necessarily set the tone for the album though, as more tunes lean toward lyrical beauty such as his original “Nana,” evoking the name of a peak in the Caucasus Mountains. There’s a spiritual, hymn-like quality to this gorgeous piece while his “After the Tale” exhibits similar restraint and uncompromising lyricism as he’s inspired by the folk strains of composer Gabunia’s joyous, dancelike melody.
The remainder, seven selections are interpretations of Georgian composers, several of which relate to film scores. “No Easy to Repeat,” from David Toradze stems from the melodrama Last Day, First Day about a postman about to retire before he shows his route to a young woman who will replace him. Like several of these pieces, it traverses through several sections, like a story. While the music is challenging, the trio moves deftly through the various twists and turns. “Dolls Are Laughing,” by Tsintsadze is from the comedy Tjinobi itsinain, with bassist Moutin prominent both in pizzicato and arco technique, apt since the composer is known mostly for his string quartets, which is easy to imagine as one listens to the piece. The sprightly, uplifting “Same Garden” (Shota Milarova) and the exuberantly kinetic “A Magic Egg” from Giya Kancheli, revered as Georgia’s most distinguished composer, are from short films of the ‘70s.
Mikadze nods to a couple of singers as well. The stately “The Moon Over Mtatsminda” is a famous ballad by singer and composer Kakhidze who conducted the Georgian Symphony Orchestra for two decades while the rhythmic and lush “Wind Takes It Anyway” interprets one of the country’s pop songs. One of the album’s shorter pieces is the contemplative “To Nodar,” a reverential nod to Gabunia, the late composer and concert pianist, a stellar example of the delicate support from the bass-drum tandem.
These selections span a wide range of moods, tempos, and trio interaction. Mikadze has certainly whetted our appetite for the next installment.
- Jim Hynes
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