Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

139

Armen Donelian: Quartet Language

By

Sign in to view read count
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.

Title: Quartet Language | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Playscape Recordings


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Baby It's Cold Outside CD/LP/Track Review Baby It's Cold Outside
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Wrong Turns And Dead Ends CD/LP/Track Review Wrong Turns And Dead Ends
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Lavaman CD/LP/Track Review Lavaman
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 21 CD/LP/Track Review Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 21
by Don Phipps
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Bad Hombre CD/LP/Track Review Bad Hombre
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Aladdin's Dream CD/LP/Track Review Aladdin's Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "To the Bone" CD/LP/Track Review To the Bone
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 22, 2017
Read "Kalamazoo" CD/LP/Track Review Kalamazoo
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 2, 2017
Read "Heaven" CD/LP/Track Review Heaven
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 19, 2017
Read "Do Not Disturb" CD/LP/Track Review Do Not Disturb
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 26, 2016
Read "Asian Fields Variations" CD/LP/Track Review Asian Fields Variations
by John Kelman
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues" CD/LP/Track Review Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play...
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 3, 2017

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!