Bassist Petros Klampanis, based both in his native Athens, Greece and also New York, has earned acclaim as “a formidable player and composer” (JazzTimes) and “a musician who has always spoken from the heart” (Downbeat). Irrationalities, his fourth outing as a leader, his second crowdfunded album (after Minor Dispute), his first ever with a trio and his first release for the storied German label Enja, speaks to his persistent reality of living across two cultures, of “being up in the air all the time,” as he describes it.
Citing Italo Calvino’s 1972 novel Invisible Cities, specifically a passage about cities being “made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret,” Klampanis sets out with Irrationalities to capture the feeling of “living in an imaginary city that combines Greek and European culture and New York culture.” With this comes a struggle “between certainty and uncertainty,” Klampanis adds, “between having a structure and at the same time breaking free of structure, being open, discovering life. Traveling has been a big part of it.”
In a life that can feel unmoored at times, Klampanis’ trio with pianist Kristjan Randalu and drummer/percussionist Bodek Janke provides all the anchoring solidity he could ever need. “I feel that I discovered my musical family with these two musicians,” the bassist says. Of Estonian and Polish descent respectively, Randalu and Janke met as 10-year-olds growing up in small-town Germany and have been musical brothers ever since, recording in duet as Grupa Janke Randalu (Live, 2008). Randalu has distinguished himself on ECM recordings as a leader (with Ben Monder and Markku Ounaskari) and with Trygve Seim. “Kristjan is so solid,” Klampanis marvels. “If I just painted on a staff he would play that. He can read everything. Bodek is influenced by Indian and Brazilian music but with strong jazz foundations, and also classically trained. He plays a mixed drum set and also plays tabla, combining all these different elements.”
Shifting from the larger, string-based ensemble sound of his previous albums Chroma and Minor Dispute (a chamber-group focus that also played a big role in his 2011 Inner Circle debut Contextual), Klampanis devotes Irrationalities to his strong and highly evolved trio concept. Still, all the nuance and complexity of his string writing enters into the trio’s language as well: “Arranging is a huge part of what I do, and I think that’s the special thing about the trio: there’s a lot of thought about choice of registers, orchestration, rhythm — a lot of decisions and details, not only for the main melodies but also the improvised sections. I try to explore everything I developed working with strings and incorporate it into this musical vehicle.”