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Bebop Spoken There

Rickie Lee Jones: "There's lots of music and not so much celebrity. I guess I'll stay here [New Orleans] for a while if it doesn't get washed away in the flood." - (The Observer 18.04.21)

Archive quotes.

The Things They Say!

Hudson Music: Lance's "Bebop Spoken Here" is one of the heaviest and most influential jazz blogs in the UK.

Rupert Burley (Dynamic Agency): "BSH just goes from strength to strength".

'606' Club: "A toast to Lance Liddle of the terrific jazz blog 'Bebop Spoken Here'"

The Strictly Smokin' Big Band included Be Bop Spoken Here (sic) in their 5 Favourite Jazz Blogs.

Postage

13,107 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 13 years ago. 526 of them this year alone and, so far, 81 this month (April 16).

Bar Manager Required

The Jazz Co-op are looking for an experienced bar manager who can be available to start when The Globe reopens in May.

Preference will be given to a suitably qualified person who lives relatively near to The Globe, 11 Railway St., Newcastle NE4 7AD.

Interested parties please follow this link.

Coming soon ...

April 29: Vieux Carré Jazzmen are back at The Holystone.

May 20 Maine Street Jazzmen are back at Sunniside Social Club.
May 23: Vieux Carré Hot Four are back at The Spanish City.

June 2: Vieux Carré Jazzmen are back at Cullercoats Crescent Club.
June 7: Jazz in the Afternoon are back at Cullercoats Crescent Club.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Album review: Tigran Hamasyan - The Call Within

Tigran Hamasyan (piano/keys/vocal); Evan Marien (bass); Arthur Hnatek (drums) 

The eagerly awaited fourth album on Nonesuch records from the 33-year old Armenian piano messiah Tigran, appearing here with a trio as for Mockroot  (2015), rather than solo as for his other Nonesuch albums For Gyumri (2018) and An Ancient Observer (2017), and on his date at Sage Two last year    

Tigran’s music is as genre-defying as you could ask for, and while he has a distinct voice and is instantly recognisable, many readers here will instantly recognise it as “other” than their familiar blues/bebop jazz tradition – indeed Tigran himself refers to it as “electro-acoustic Armenian rock”!  However, mainstream jazz luminaries are falling over themselves to laud his genius and fearless forging of his won distinct path. When Herbie Hancock says, “Now, Tigran, you are my teacher” that’s good enough for me to give him a serious listen 

Tigran evokes fanatical responses from a highly knowledgeable following, which is not unique in jazz circles but seems now to be at an apex of technical expertise and understanding, as well as level of devotion.

An example is the video of Arthur Hnatek playing the drum part at the recording of the track New Maps released on YouTube (ase date) which received 11,000 views (in a month).  Transcriptions of the piano, bass and drum parts were posted on YouTube within days, and with similarly high views. Transcriptions are time consuming at the best of times, but for music of this complexity, and with note by note video reveal, these are works of art stemming from dedication beyond any human reason.  For what it’s worth, the piece is analysed as either alternating bars of 9/8 and 11/8, or as 20/16. The in-house drummer tells me to think of it as “almost like 4/4 but with every 'crotchet' made up of 5 beats rather than 4 semi quavers”.  

While Tigran’s complex rhythmic patterns and unfamiliar time signatures, with their origin in Armenian folk and dance music with a splash of prog-metal, provoke glee and fascination with young “Time Lords”, there is, thankfully, far more to his music than mind-bending technical virtuosity and precision.  Tigran seems to operate on a spiritual plane transcending the usual physical limits of instruments (think Mahavishnu or late Coltrane) - in his words “where the moment of the unconscious creation is the way to feel conscious”.

His inspirations are drawn widely here from maps poetry, Christian and pre-Christian Armenian folk stories and legends, and beyond! 

This is all very well – but what do the ten new compositions here sound like?   There is a sustained intensity and emotion well beyond even Tigran’s norm, so this is no casual, dinner party jazz album.  Once any attempt to count through the bars is abandoned, the pulse of the music drives and surges in an engaging (although never, to me, truly comfortable) groove, e.g. the opener 21 Levitation drives along in rhythmic groups of 21 (!) The repetitive intensity and rhythmic programmed precision of dissonant chords is darkbut never angry, as much modern “prog” and “metal” sounds to my earsUnderneath the harsh trappings, there beats the heart of piano trio, and ethereal melodies transcend the Sturm und Drangoften achieving peacefuleven joyous, catharsis after the turmoil.  

For every section of high tempo repetitive grooving set up by block chord piano, with doubling on bass, there are relaxed interludes of lyrical piano and synth on Space of Your Existenceand even whistling on Our Filmaugmented by vocals and cello 

The Dream Voyager and Old Maps evoke more of Tigran’s alter egoless frenetic and with sustained legato allowing the haunting melodies to break through.   The high energy returns for a prog-metal track, Vortex, driven harder by guest Tosin Abasi on 8 string electric guitar.  

37 Newlyweds is the most relaxed track, with eastern chanting intoning ominously over chiming piano chords.  

New Maps closes out the album in some style, and even has an art house video to match. After a while the fluctuating and cyclical beat is hypnotically relaxing  - sit back and say goodbye to 4:4! 

Overall a stunning new statement by Tigran and his remarkable band, who give as good as they get,  further charting hiunique path - not entirely removed from the mainstream tradition but sitting across other folk, classical and rock in spiritual and technical communion. Not for the fainthearted or those wedded to the familiar perhaps, but as an initial sceptic, I’d recommend investing in some  listening, as the rewards are deep and intense.  
Chris K 

Release date August 28. Preview and pre-order

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