Learn How

Help improve All About Jazz

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. For $20, we'll hide those pesky Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

139

Armen Donelian: Quartet Language

Celeste Sunderland By

Sign in to view read count
Armen Donelian: Quartet Language 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 and Chapin. Memorable moments, like the catchy 11-note theme of Jabberwackey and the swaying intro of 'Loose As A Goose,' are repeated, reversed, and explored until the players get caught up in a carousel of notes, tones, times, and timbre, all held together by Williams' intrepid drumming.

'The Germ' is a 12-minute exercise in extremes. Chapin's lavish gallivants on his horn are countered by Donelian's foray into minimalist syncopation. Then for the solos. Chapin prods and teases but his wry tale soon turns joyful. Donelian plays sassy vamps with the right hand, and dry staccato chords with the left. The last track, 'Brood Mood,' sashays somberly with Chapin's saxophone, awash with the sizzle of cymbals. Piano and bass lead themselves into lonely terrain, then regroup timidly, awkwardly, improvising nostalgically on each other's lines.

The moment of glory arrives with 'Mexico,' a seductive bolero brimming with dark-eyed passion. Chapin's long notes tremble, tortured by what can only be forbidden love. Donelian's keys weep with wistful longing against Hill's bass solo, like waves receding against the Acapulco coast, shimmering and consistent, but never exactly the same.

Dedicated to Chapin's memory, Quartet Language preserves a moment in four lives. At once bravely adventurous and breathlessly delicate, it's a relic to be contemplated, and somehow, the enigma of life seems a little bit clearer.


Track Listing: Jabberwackey; The Germ; Mexico; Loose as a Goose; Brood Mood.

Personnel: Armen Donelian: piano; Thomas Chapin: alto saxophone; Calvin Hill: bass; Jeff Williams: drums.

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Playscape Recordings | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read #knowingishalfthebattle CD/LP/Track Review #knowingishalfthebattle
by Mark F. Turner
Published: January 23, 2017
Read Live In Brooklyn CD/LP/Track Review Live In Brooklyn
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 23, 2017
Read King Of Xhosa CD/LP/Track Review King Of Xhosa
by James Nadal
Published: January 23, 2017
Read Blooming Tall Phlox CD/LP/Track Review Blooming Tall Phlox
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 23, 2017
Read Hear & Now CD/LP/Track Review Hear & Now
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 22, 2017
Read Known-Unknown CD/LP/Track Review Known-Unknown
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "Siren Songs" CD/LP/Track Review Siren Songs
by James Nadal
Published: April 24, 2016
Read "The Magnificent Thad Jones" CD/LP/Track Review The Magnificent Thad Jones
by Greg Simmons
Published: November 10, 2016
Read "Antenna" CD/LP/Track Review Antenna
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 22, 2016
Read "Röjer På Vinden" CD/LP/Track Review Röjer På Vinden
by Dave Wayne
Published: March 1, 2016
Read "Plays The Music Of Alvin P. Buckley" CD/LP/Track Review Plays The Music Of Alvin P. Buckley
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 16, 2016
Read "Symmetry" CD/LP/Track Review Symmetry
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 22, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Get Jazz Near You via email!

Enjoy the convenience of receiving a comprehensive listing of jazz events in your area every Thursday. It's free!