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Album Review

Tigran Hamasyan: The Call Within

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Tigran Hamasyan: The Call Within
Tigran Hamasyan had already demonstrated that he's an excellent pianist: He won the Montreux Jazz Festival's piano competition in 2003. He was only seventeen when he released his first recording (World Passion, Nocturn) in 2005 and then he claimed top prize the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition the year after that. Hamasyan's Nonesuch Records debut Mockroot (2015), won the Echo Jazz Award for International Piano Instrumentalist of the Year.

But The Call Within also illustrates Hamasyan's remarkable gifts as a composer, musicologist and visionary. His creative perspective is deeply informed by the culture of his native Armenia and the ten originals on his fourth Nonesuch release use music (especially the drum) differently than most.

Hamasyan has suggested that the "moment of unconscious creation is the way to feel conscious," and much of The Call Within—such as its floating reflection "The Dream Voyager"—seems to move with the inscrutable non-linear logic of a dream. "Our Film" camera pans back and forth across a vocal chorus, a piano rhythm that ripples and flows like a passing river, heavy march steps and light dance steps, before it fades to black. "At a Post-Historic Seashore" sends back a different and poignantly colored snapshot, the sound of each piano note twinkling like a star and then disintegrating into stardust, in less than two minutes (and curiously but accurately echoes the "instrumental side" of David Bowie's landmark "Heroes" [1977, RCA].

Hamasyan and Swiss drummer Arthur Hnatek play their instruments off each other in ways that create dynamics and tensions very different from a typical "jazz piano" setting. In "Space of Your Existence" and "Ara Resurrected," they assemble their individual jazz pieces together into puzzles of different shapes and sizes, often with the power and fury of hard progressive rock.

And maybe you can't quite put your finger on the pulse of The Call Within by Hamasyan's design. "Unutterable seconds of longing, subliminal realization, and mostly joy fill the body as a work of art, a poem, or a melody is being born into this world for no apparent reason," he muses. "But only for the humanity to discover what is invisible: the divine mystery."

Track Listing

Levitation 21; Our Film; Ara Resurrected; At a Post-Historic Seashore; Space of Your Existence; The Dream Voyager; Old Maps; Vortex; 37 Newlyweds; New Maps.

Personnel

Tigran Hamasyan: piano; Evan Marien: bass, electric; Arthur Hnatek: drums; Tobin Abasi: guitar; Areni Agbabian: piano; Artyom Manukyan: cello.

Album information

Title: The Call Within | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records


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