115

Armen Donelian: Full Moon Music

Michael McCaw By

Sign in to view read count
Armen Donelian: Full Moon Music 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 spontaneous improvisations. While the sound of Full Moon Music may not instantly take hold of your senses like recitals from the likes of Keith Jarrett or Brad Mehldau, Donelian provides a constant stream of ideas and beauty that is hard to deny.

In fact, during many of his improvisations, such as the opening "Preamble, his ideas are so complete that they sound like a pre-composed melody that you have known from somewhere before, but simply can not place. And while the songs are good, they do not move the listener into a place of discovery as often as one would hope.

Although the tone of the album never leaps beyond its lush midrange soundstage, Donelian does present a visual sense where every song has considerable variance and movement. Titles inform, or are informed by, the music associated with them, whether they are a "Barren Landscape, "Pilgrimage, or "Beer Drinker's Anthem, with its warbling, slightly out of tune sing-song quality.

Throughout the program, Donelian keeps his considerable technique in check, unleashing it only when it serves the song, as on "Young Asses at Play, where his hands dance around each other, creating a whirlwind of punchy notes. He begins to incorporate extended techniques here as well, such as scraping the strings of the piano. Following this playground of sound, he comes back around to the opening whirlwind this time with a sense of weariness in the higher register and a much slower tempo, as if almost exhausted. And as the album continues into "Blues Montage, he treats the listener to variations that range from deep grooves to manic right-hand movement over a repeating left-handed bass line, while working within the stated medium. In these moments, the music leaps forward and shows what a considerable talent Donelian really is.

Nonetheless, even with these flights of fancy, the sense of daring that one would expect to permeate an album of improvisations is not present at every turn. In fact, without prior knowledge of the album's conception, one would be hard pressed not to argue that many of these songs are not through-composed miniatures of nuance and beauty. Ultimately, this completeness is actually Donelian's worst enemy and best asset.

Visit Armen Donelian on the web.


Track Listing: Preamble; A Call To The Spirits; The Witch’s Cauldron; Nostalgia; Fractured Dream; On The Dark Side Of The Moon; When A Girl Dreams Of Love; Beer Drinkers’ Anthem; Springtime In The Rose Garden; Barren Landscape; Young Asses At Play; Blues Montage; Pilgrimage; Redemption.

Personnel: Armen Donelian: piano.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read This Is Nate Najar CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Joy Comes Back CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Apocalypse CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Fierce Silence" CD/LP/Track Review Fierce Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: December 9, 2016
Read "Eight Track II" CD/LP/Track Review Eight Track II
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 27, 2016
Read "Concerto para Moviola" CD/LP/Track Review Concerto para Moviola
by Edward Blanco
Published: July 2, 2016
Read "Live at the Stone: Megaloprepus Caerulatus" CD/LP/Track Review Live at the Stone: Megaloprepus Caerulatus
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 2, 2017
Read "La vie commence ici" CD/LP/Track Review La vie commence ici
by Tyran Grillo
Published: April 20, 2016
Read "The Caustic Ballads" CD/LP/Track Review The Caustic Ballads
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: August 24, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!