In titling Mario Grigorov's debut album Rhymes With Orange, the folks at Reprise Records dredged up a quite appropriate allusion. As even fledgling poetasters know, English contains no word that rhymes with "orange"; and American music contains very little in the way of precedent for this Bulgarian-born, Austrian-trained classical-jazz pianist. Grigorov's creations owe much to his conservatory background; even his most astonishing improvisations are based in the scales and tonal relationships of Eastern Europe. (Those who have heard Milcho Leviev, Grigorov's countryman of the previous generation, or the now brittle, now brooding touch of the Polish emigre Adam Makowicz, will recognize the source of this raw material.) However remarkable his improvisational skills, Grigorov's music has trouble qualifying as jazz among even liberal-minded listeners; in fact, both on disc and onstage he uses his explosive and electrifying virtuosity to stake his own middle ground between European classical music and American jazz. It's another ripple in the fabled "third stream" conceptualized nearly four decades ago, and Grigorov navigates it with grace and daring--from the driving rhythms of his own modern mazurkas to a Debussy-esque arrangement of the standard "Body and Soul." Saturday, 8 PM (opening for violinist Mark O'Connor), Coronet Theatre, 817 Chicago, Evanston; 708-733-0030 or 559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Alastair Thain.