Giorgi will be performing on a Yamaha C7 Grand Piano provided by Yamaha Artists Services, New York for this highly-anticipated concert.
Proof of vax is NOT required for this event
Pianist and composer Giorgi Mikadze started out following a well-trodden path on the way to becoming a successful jazz musician: leaving home (in his case Tbilisi, Georgia)
for the United States, studying at a prestigious music school (Berklee and the Manhattan School of Music under presidential scholarships), winning music competitions and jazz fellowships, and performing with many of the music’s legendary figures (a list that includes Jack DeJohnette, Roy Hargrove, Dave Liebman, Lee Ritenour and many others).
Then he deviated from that path, on a route that led him directly home again. “I started to ask myself, ‘Why should I play American standards when there are numerous melodies written by Georgian composers?’” Mikadze recalls. “I love the American Songbook – that’s how I learned to play jazz. But I would like to offer the world a Georgian Songbook and share all these beautiful melodies from my country.”
The beginnings of that endeavor have now taken the form of Mikadze’s stunning new album Face to Face: The Georgian Songbook Vol. 1. Due out February 2, 2024 via the French label PeeWee!, the album features pieces by seven of the Caucasus country’s most revered composers, most of them originally penned for film, animation and theatrical soundtracks. Mikadze adds three of his own compositions to the mix, suggesting that much like the American model, this new Songbook is one that invites a continual expansion and evolution.
Face To Face also marks Mikadze’s first venture on record into the traditional piano, bass and drums jazz trio. He’s joined by the stellar French rhythm section of bassist François Moutin and drummer Raphaël Pannier, who dive wholeheartedly into these robust yet unfamiliar tunes and emerge with inspired and rapturous improvisations.
The trio format is a decided departure from Mikadze’s previous ventures into exploring Georgian music. He crafted an adventurous hybrid of Georgian folk music and microtonal jazz with the innovative guitarist David “Fuze” Fiuczynski on the 2020 album Georgian Microjamz. In 2017 he premiered his project “Georgian Overtones,” a combination of jazz, chamber music and Georgian polyphonic singing, at the Young Euro Classic Festival in Berlin, a combination he also investigated with his multi-genre project “Voisa,” featuring the Georgian state folk-singing ensemble Basiani.
Face to Face, though, is the first time that Mikadze has met his native land’s music on purely jazz terms, and the results are breathtaking. In the trio’s sensitive hands each of these compositions sounds like a long-lost standard, with the instant familiarity and emotional profundity that define those lasting compositions that have stoked musicians’ improvisatory imaginations for generations.
“Georgian classical composers of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s were heavily influenced by the harmony and freedom of jazz music,” Mikadze explains. “Jazz was kind of taboo at the time, but the Georgian people would try to crack old radios to listen to Willis Conover on the Voice of America.”
The album opens with “Satchidao,” Mikadze’s thundering reimagining of a well-known melody traditionally sung during wrestling matches. That origin is evident in the muscularity of the trio’s playing and the taut, grappling back and forth of its raucous rhythmic surge. The pianist also contributes “Nana,” a tender evocation of a beautiful peak nestled in the Caucasus Mountains; and “After the Tale,” a response to “Igavi,” a Nodar Gabunia composition based on a Georgian folk tale. Mikadze’s crystalline playing on “To Nodar” pays homage to the late composer and concert pianist.
“Not Easy to Repeat” was written by David Toradze for the 1960 melodrama Last Day, First Day, which follows a postman on the eve of retirement as he shows his route to the young woman who’ll take it over. Mikadze vividly mines the beloved melody for poignant emotion in dialogue with Moutin’s eloquent bass and Pannier’s hushed brushwork.
The 1963 comedy Tojinebi itsinian is the source of “Dolls Are Laughing” by Sulkhan Tsintsadze, a composer best known for his acclaimed string quartets. The piece provides a showcase for Moutin’s nimble soloing, the gentle dance of which is immediately picked up by Mikadze’s sprightly piano. Shota Milarova’s “Same Garden” and “A Magic Egg” by Giya Kancheli, Georgia’s most distinguished composer, both hail from charming animated short films of the 1970s, while “Wind Takes It Anyway” is a lush expression of a beautiful pop song by Rusudan Sebiskveradze. “The Moon Over Mtatsminda” is a wistful ballad by the famed singer and composer Jansug Kakhidze, who conducted the Georgian State Symphony Orchestra for two decades.
The subtitle of Face to Face: Georgian Songbook Vol. 1 hints at future volumes to come, a welcome promise given the rich and vibrant material mined by this thrilling trio.