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Articles by Hrayr Attarian

BEST OF / YEAR END

Attarian's Dozen: The Twelve Best Recordings from 2018

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The year 2018 was, musically speaking, a good year. The label Pi Recordings did it again with six magnificent albums, three of which made it in my top twelve. In addition, two feminist themed gems are included as well as four by master pianists. An intimate and adventurous duet, a meeting of great minds and a unique genre-bender round up the list. Below are the releases in no particular order. Henry Threadgill Dirt... And More Dirt ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kyle Nasser: Persistent Fancy

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Saxophonist Kyle Nasser follows his 2015 self-released debut, the captivating Restive Soul, with the equally intriguing Persistent Fancy. On it Nasser's writing has matured and his ideas crystalized resulting in vibrant and compelling originals. The title track is an intricately crafted and passionate tune that brims with refreshing spontaneity. Bursts of saxophone notes complement guitarist Jeff Miles' simmering and fluid lines. Bassist Nick Jost and drummer Allan Mednard create a taut rhythmic framework with their agile reverberations and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Abbey Rader West Coast Quartet: Second Gathering

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Drummer Abbey Rader is a consummate improviser and an innovative bandleader. His intrepid creativity evolves and transforms with each recording. The 2018 Second Gathering is no exception. On it Rader leads his West Coast Quartet on five spontaneously composed multilayered tracks that bear his indelible mark of cerebral spirituality. The ambience of “Uncovering the Jewel in the Lotus" is that of an eastern Zen serenity. Bassist Kyle Motl's reverberating strums and Rader's rustling percussion build an angular rhythmic ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Petra van Nuis: Because We’re Night People

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On the elegant and delightful Because We're Night People Chicago natives, vocalist Petra van Nuis and pianist Dennis Luxion, interpret thirteen night-themed tunes with charm and sophistication. The two musicians are superbly matched, she with her refined grace and emotive vocals and he with his vibrant lyricism. The pair performs a selection of standards in a refreshingly singular style, that is simultaneously true to the original's essence yet deeply personal. For example, Luxion embellishes the intimate “Night People," ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Balazs Balogh: Borderline Inspirations

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Hungarian drummer Balázs Balogh leads a multinational group on his intelligent and charming debut Borderline Inspirations. For it he has also penned seven elegant, poetic and sometimes provocative originals. Balogh has been leading an award-winning quintet since 2014 that includes several of those who appear on this captivating album which also showcases Balogh's noteworthy compositional skills. One of the highlights of this uniformly engaging release is the multilayered “Metamorphosis." Opening with a dark, expectant mood, Balogh's compatriot, pianist ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Charlie Porter: Charlie Porter

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Trumpeter and composer Charlie Porter exhibits his innovative spirit and his brilliant musicianship on his self-titled debut as a leader. Working with a rotating cast of Portland (Oregon) area musicians, Porter performs ten of his originals and one cover with a refreshingly unique style and captivating spontaneity. Similar in concept to tenor saxophonist Benny Golson's Take a Number from 1 to 10 (Argo, 1961), Porter's release starts off with the unaccompanied trumpet piece “Prologue" that quotes motifs from ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Adison Evans: Meridian

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On her second release as a leader, the buoyant Meridian, saxophonist Adison Evans demonstrates remarkable maturity as both a composer and a performer. Evans drew inspiration from the idyllic Tuscan village where she retreated to pen the music that comprises this intriguing album. The opening title-track sets the mood with the right balance of contemplative melancholy and vibrant poetry. Evans' serpentine duet with pianist Silvano Monasterios gracefully flows into the band's brighter, resonant group play. The ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Graz Composers Orchestra meets Claudia Döffinger: Monochrome

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The title of composer and pianist Claudia Döffinger's collaboration with Graz Composers Orchestra, Monochrome, is a bit of a misnomer. The seven pieces, five by Döffinger, are definitely not in shades of a single color. They are multitextured, vibrantly-hued and captivating, and often coalesce around one or two instruments like Kaleidoscopic patterns around light beams. For instance, the funky “Mumpitz" has a loose, swaggering cadence and energetic sparring between the band's three sections. At the core of the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Maria Grand: Magdalena

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The intimate and personal Magdalena is tenor saxophonist Maria Grand's second release as a leader. On it she fleshes out the ideas explored on her dynamic debut EP, Tetrawind (Biophilia, 2017). Sandwiched between two spoken-word tracks, the recording showcases Grand's skills as a vocalist, instrumentalist and composer. Singer Jasmine Wilson recites Grand's verse with emotive eloquence on the opening “La Immortal." Grand plays her sax with contemplation while drummer Jeremy Dutton's rustling percussion enhances the dramatic mood.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tia Fuller: Diamond Cut

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The engaging and enjoyable Diamond Cut is saxophonist Tia Fuller's fifth release as a leader and the first without a pianist. Fuller deftly fronts a different rhythm section on each half of the album. The only constant is guitarist Adam Rogers, whose restless, explorative style is the perfect foil for Fuller's ardent, poetic wit. On the opening “In the Trenches" Fuller embellishes the breezy, mellifluous theme with gusto and passion. Rogers follows with a cool, muscular swagger that ...