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Raffi Garabedian: The Crazy Dog

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Raffi Garabedian: The Crazy Dog
Bay area composer and saxophonist Raffi Garabedian is the descendent of survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. These life defining events have had a major impact on family lore and on cultural expressions primarily in the form of literature. Garabedian draws inspiration from these oral and written stories to craft the cohesive eight part suite that is his third release as a leader, the lyrical The Crazy Dog.

The music is not a fusion of Armenian and American sounds. It is most definitely western in its sensibilities. Garabedian is telling a personal tale, not creating a "world fusion" record and he does that with his chosen medium, jazz. The opener,"The Armenian Question," for instance has an almost martial beat driving the performance. Vocalist Danielle Wertz wordlessly embellishes the melody while Garabedian contributes tenor vamps. Flutist Jonathan Beshay and trombonist Danny Lubin-Laden echo Garabedian's saxophone to haunting effect.

Garabedian peppers the pieces with quotes from his family's writings, articulated by Danielle Wertz. "Escape to Erzurum" uses fragments from his father's short story of the same name. The rustling percussion buoys Wertz's emotive singing like a gentle wind. Drummer Sean Mullins then sets the tense cadence together with vibraphonist Dierk Peters. The frontline alternates between playing the main theme around Wertz's song and exchanging short crisp refrains. Lubin-Laden solos with elegance and warmth and his pillowy tones complement Wertz's breathy voice.

"A Mother's Letter" uses a poem by Garabedian's grandmother as source material. The wistful tune features Beshay's bittersweet flute and the leader's wailing tenor. "The Closet Playwright" has understated early 20th century motifs and is about the grandmother mentioned above. It contrasts clarinetist Ben Goldberg's nostalgic lines and bassist Rashaan Carter's electric swagger to dramatic effect.

A cinematic ambience permeates the entire album. Unaccompanied bluesy tenor opens "Ten Acres." Booming and reverberating beats, tolling mallets and Wertz's melancholic vocals give the track vibrancy. The wind instruments play a dirge enveloping Wertz and floating over the rhythm section's solemn beats. It is a perfect example of seamless and multidimensional ensemble performance.

With the The Crazy Dog Garabedian has proved his mettle as a multifaceted artist. This intimate and cohesive work is his most fully realized and most mature to date. Having a sympathetic band and a rich source of inspiration has spurred his creativity and imagination to new heights.

Track Listing

The Armenian Question; A Mother's Letter; Escape to Erzurum; The Closet Playwright; Three Gold Liras; Ten Acres; First Trip to Fresno); March 17, 1927; March 18, 2020; Contrapuntal Bewilderment.

Personnel

Ben Goldberg
clarinet
Jonathan Beshay
saxophone, tenor
Dierk Peters
vibraphone
Rashaan Carter
bass, acoustic
Additional Instrumentation

Raffi Garabedian: voice; Jonathan Beshay: flute; Rashaan Carter: electric bass; Dierk Peters: glockenspiel.

Album information

Title: The Crazy Dog | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Clandestine


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