The Armenian pianist has established a reputation for volatile, highly propulsive jazz with the distinct harmonies of the music of his homeland feeding into a strongly grooving contemporary jazz.
This first CD for the ECM label marks a real contrast. Sure, the piano playing is just as strong, but this time the programme comes from Armenian sacred music, some if it going back to the 5th century, the most recent of it from the early 20th century, which Hamasyan has arranged for chamber choir and piano.
The harmonies of the choir are sometimes as chilly as the cover pictures which show Hamasyan in the snow and fog outside a 16th century church in Yerevan, sometimes warmer and more comforting, but always spellbinding.
Hamasyan explains how he has tried to get back to the old ways of Armenian singing and the singers he has need to get that old, vibrato-free, less classical sound yet still need the ability to sing tricky time signatures and support an improvising musician. They do an extraordinary job.
Tigris’s piano playing is extraordinary too, bringing his virtuosity to the service of the music without it ever sounding gratuitous or grand-standing. He sometimes stretches out in improvisations filled with energy, sometimes he decorates over the choir like filigree.
This is deeply spiritual, deeply beautiful music that stretches back in timelessness.
- Tigran Hamasyan and eight singers from the Yerevan State Chamber Choir will be performing this music in the UK this week. They are at the Union Chapel in London on Thursday 15 October and Howard Assembly Room in Leeds on Friday 16 October.
Categories: CD review