Review / Description
People say the world is getting smaller.
But as physical distance makes less difference, the ways of other parts of the world become more accessible, so the cultural world of each of us is really getting bigger!
The story of TRANSITION illustrates the point perfectly. Two Americans of Armeni-an parentage, steeped in Middle Eastern musical tradition, met a Swiss with similar experience while performing in her country. Since 1987 these remarkable artists have collaborated via telephone, post and e-mail, so when they’re all in the same place they’re a working trio. On this recording they offer you the fruits of their intensive experi-ence of rich musical cultures that live far from your door-step. Of course, music of the people is always in transition, contin-ually reshaped through generations. Some of what you will hear is a faithful rendition of the traditional, some is a new way of telling an old story, and some shows the way to something never heard before.
For a half-century and more Souren Baronian has been a pace-setting virtuoso instrumentalist and bandleader, ind an inspiring teacher and composer. He still maintains a full schedule in all those ways as he travels the world. “I always feel like a beginner,” he says, “as I practice scales and maqams to keep improving my chops. I feel privileged to be able to play after all these years, and I’m as enthusiastic as ever.” The list of musical luminaries with whom he has performed and recorded is a Who’s Who of Middle Eastern music – and of jazz! (When those two great streams meet in him, out flows something new. With his group Taksim, since 1975 Souren has offered to the world the gift of Middle Eastern jazz. Taksim’s latest CD is called Ocean Algae.)
Haig Manoukian has attained mastery of the oud on his own. His experience of Middle Eastern music began in his parent’s home, where he heard record-ings made in the early 1900’s, and continued through many years of listening to ensembles of oud, violin and kanun. He began developing his maqam and rhythm techniques in the 1970’s in New York City, where he worked with Middle Eastern musicians in the many Turkish, Greek and Arab clubs that flourished there at that time. More recently, inspired by extensive travel in southern Spain and by his work with Taksim, Haig has absorbed flamenco and jazz influences into his Middle Eastern style. It is this unique integration of traditional styles with the freedom of jazz that you hear on this recording.
Music is a language that brings people together, and Cornelia Kraft felt especially drawn to the material Souren was working with. She has been a musicmaker since childhood, and specialized in music of the Balkan countries and the Middle East. As a darabuka player and vocalist, Cornelia has now played and toured with Transition in Europe for over 14 years. In Souren’s compositions her singing melts into the fusion of Middle Eastern ethnic music and jazz. For this recording she has chosen a very beautiful Armenian love song from her great collection of traditional Middle Eastern songs.
Whether in rollicking dance music coming at you in a whirlwind of virtuosity, or a subtle turn of phrase poignantly evoking another side of life, Transition will richly repay your attention. It’s born of the love of three dedicated artists for the music and for each other. They invite you to share it.