The sound of his piano evokes treasured sounds from a small and hidden mountainous country full of cultural richness and history in the heart of Eurasia. On his thirteenth solo album, the New Yorker veteran musician Armen Donelian paid a homage to Armenia, the homeland of his forefathers. Donelian, a classically trained pianist who played and recorded with legends like Mongo Santamaria, Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker and Paquito D' Rivera, titled his latest record Sayat-Nova: Songs of my Ancestors, to tribute the famous Armenian poet, trobadour and musician Harutyun Sayatyan, whose nickname was Sayat-Nova.read more
Consistency of excellence is an extraordinary thing in music--particularly improvised music, where taking chances, however satisfying, can be risky. The daredevil on the tightrope might amaze onlookers. But he also might fall.61 year-old pianist Armen Donelian, a New York City native who now lives in upstate New York but who has traveled the globe as a jazz artist and as Fulbright scholar, is one of those improvising musicians. He's played all kinds of music during his lifetime. He studied classical music intensely and he allows other influences to seep in to his creativity. But he's attracted to jazz, ...read more
While cohesion and individuality, by their very definitions, may seem to be at odds with one another, the music on Leapfrog reconciles these two opposing ideals without a problem. For his ninth date on the Sunnyside label, pianist Armen Donelian has together a program of strikingly modern originals that showcase the cutting edge talent and simpatico sensibilities of his band. The personnel in Donelian's quintet might, at the surface, seem like an intergenerational mishmash, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Donelian and veteran bassist Dean Johnson began making music together in the early '80s, and ...read more
The third chapter in pianist Armen Donelian's Grand Ideas trilogy, Full Moon Music, stands alone in its ability to allow the listener to bond with the artist on a most personal level. Consisting of fourteen freely improvised solo piano portraits, the program masterfully tip-toes, walks, and runs along the thinnest of lines separating jazz and classical performance. Donelian is intimately familiar with the subtle nuances of his gorgeously warm 19th Century reconditioned Steinway and it serves as the vehicle for his extemporaneous expositions.The lovely flowing lines of the introductory Preamble that beautifully segue into A Call to the ...read more
Precious few listeners are aware of Armen Donelian. A tremendously talented pianist who has never had a major label signing nor has attached his name to a legend or star of some sort, Donelian has quietly created a body of work that at the very least is consistent, at best exhilarating. His latest release covers the same amount of ground.
Full Moon Music is the final installment in Donelian's Grand Ideas series. Volume 1 - Wave focused on standards and popular song, Volume 2 - Mystic Heights focused on original compositions, and this third installment consists of fourteen ...read more
Pianist Armen Donelian made the acquaintance of alto saxophonist Thomas Chapin in 1988. Ten years later, at the age of 40, Chapin died of leukemia. Rewind to two spring nights in 1992. At the New York jazz club Visiones, Chapin shares the stage with Donelian, bassist Calvin Hill, and drummer Jeff Williams. Five tracks of intricately composed, expansively improvised music were recorded that evening. The album, Quartet Language , illustrated with one of bassist Mario Pavone's notoriously abstract photos, sounds of palpable emotions, dramatic landscapes, and garrulous characters. An acrid alchemy festers among these players, especially Donelian ...read more
Quartet Language is as much about history as it is about living in the moment. The 1992 live recording had to sit around for a decade before Playscape picked it up for release this year. Pianist Armen Donelian is a veteran whose credentials have never been in doubt: he first appeared on record a quarter century ago and has recently led a string of solid discs, mostly for Sunnyside. But in the end I suspect the decision to get Quartet Language out for public consumption might have more to do with Thomas Chapin than Donelian himself.
Chapin, a ...read more