Aram Bajakian - acoustic and electric guitars
Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz - acoustic bass
Tom Swafford - violin
Although he's been playing with the likes of Yusef Lateef, Mike Pride, Darius Jomes, Mat Maneri and others "Kef" is Aram Bajakian's debut official recording as a leader, and the 3rd installment of new Tzadik's Spotlight Series that aims to present young and promising talents (and a blessing from label's owner and avant-guarde's guru John Zorn is definitely a strong encouragament to get to know those bands). "Kef" surprises with it's unusual line-up of a string trio and the fresh and authentic blend of armenian folk heritage, rock expression and jazz improvisation.
A balanced selection of dynamic tunes driven by a rapid guitar riffs and passionate, fierce violin and more mellow, lyrical, lighter folk dances. While Tom and Aram exchange heated solos executed at a break-neck speed and filled with emotional fire, Shanir keeps not only the melodic base but also holds the groove together - it's quite impressive how infectiously rhythmic and danceable this music can get, nonetheless the drum-less setup. Other times is peacefull and soothing and lyrical.
It starts with a intricate acoustic solo piece, pensieve and intimate ("Pear Tree"). In his unaccompanied tracks Aram creates a delicate harmonic structure (subtle loops*) upon which he weaves beatifully touching melodies ("48 days" explores the suspended sound of the electronic delay). "La Rota" ends this album in a poignantly beautifull way, with violin and bass adding just the silver lining to Aram's playing.
Then there's a number of powerfull rock-outs, with violin and guitar strings being shredded and almost torn apart, where noisy escapades go head to head with melodic themes ("Sepastia", "Raki"). Plus a couple of more light-hearted tunes, armenian dances that can go either way (like "Wroclaw" - a moderate melody with some fiery soloing or "Karasalama" a bright and fair melody of armenian wedding song with its surprisingly lyrical, spacious and minimal intermezzo).
I guess Aram will be often compared to Marc Ribot, and there's obviously something to it. Both clearly share love for Hendrix and downtown avant-guarde music. And while Ribot is fascinated by a foreign tradition of Cuban music, Aram explores his own Armenian heritage. In fact what they have in common (and what they share with any true artist) is the very thing that divides them - their own personal expression.
And you can hear and feel in Aram's music the purity, the honesty, the deeply personal mark, the authentic dedication, the emotional connection he shares with his roots, and the passion he invests in his art. All that makes this music much more than just melodic, fun and exceptionally well-played (which, incidentally, is all true). It makes it emotionally gripping. It makes the listener respond with the same virtues in order to absorb it. It makes it true.
one track from the album is available in the playlist from 28.11.2011
two tracks from the cd appear on the playlist aired on 13.02.12.
* (edit) - I was corrected on that. What I though was a subltle loop is in fact Aram playing both 'background' and melody, using a mike and echo effect on amp.
You can listen to some of the tracks from the album that Aram made available via SoundCloud:
Karasalama by aram.bajakian
Raki by aram.bajakian