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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.
All but one of the songs in his double album were composed by Sayat-Nova, who was killed in 1795 for refusing to convert to Islam in Armenia, the first Christian country in the world.
"I'll Never Know Your True Worth / Hees Koo Gheemetn Cheem Geetee" is one of the most interesting melodies of this album. It's one of the themes were the listener can better grasp the geographic origin and the mixture of influences of Sayat-Nova's compositions. "Where Do you come From, Wandering Nightingale? / Oosdi Goukas Gharib Blbool?" may be one of the most dramatic and elegant melodies of the album. It sounds like royal music for a good reason, since Sayat-Nova performed for many years in the court of the King Erekle II of Georgia. "Were I Offered Your Weight In Pearls / Tekouz Koo Kashn Markrit Tan" is perhaps the piece in which Donelian better shows his classic training and romantic soul.
The second CD has jazz arrangements and the band is completed by David Clark (bass) and George Schuller (drums). "King of Cathay / Shahkhatayee" is an interesting piece in which Donelian's piano is beautifully escorted by the stoic soldiers Clark and Schuller. Cathay is an alternative name for China and was widely used all over the world for centuries. The band's sound is more cohesive and in tune in melodies like "My Sweet Harp / Eem Anoush Davigh," in which the bass sound wraps the sound of the piano perfectly. "You Are Golden And Exotic Brocade / Tipa Oo Yenkitoonia" with it's modern arrangement softly brings the listener back to the 21st century. Clark and Schuller unwind their instruments and for a moment they play ad libitum.
Sayat-Nova: Songs of my Ancestors serves as a deserving memorial for Armenia, Donelian's family and one of the greatest poets and troubadours of Eurasia.
The fact that the album is divided in two CDs makes it enjoyable to the classic music audience as well as the jazz audience.
Track Listing: Disc 1:
"Where Do You Come From, Wandering Nightingale? / Oosdi Goukas Gharib
"I Have Traveled The Whole World Over / Tamam Ashkhar Bdood Eka";
"Without You, What Will I Do? / Arantz Kez Eench Goneem?";
"Surely, You Don't Say That You Also Cry? / Ches Asoum Te Latz-es
"I'll Never Know Your True Worth / Hees Koo Gheemetn Cheem Geetee",
"I Call Lalanin / Hees Ganchoom Eem Lalaneen";
"Praised Among All Instruments (Kamanche) / Amen Sazi Mechn Govats
"With The Nightingale You Also Cry / Blbooli Hit Latz-es Eli";
"Were I Offered Your Weight In Pearls / Tekouz Koo Kashn Markrit Tan"
"King Of Cathay / Shahkhatayee";
"Your Headdress Is Silver And Silk / Tasdamazt Sim Oo Sharbab";
"My Sweet Harp / Eem Anoush Davigh";
"You Are Golden And Exotic Brocade / Tipa Oo Yenkitoonia";
"As Long As I Draw Breath / Kani Vor Jan Eem"
Personnel: Armen Donelian: piano;
David Clark: bass;
George Schuller: drums