Video Of The Day: Tigran – ‘Road Song’


Oregon Music News
April 18 2014

April 18, 2014

Pianist Tigran is going to be in Portland on April 23rd at Alberta
Rose Theater in support of his new album, Shadow Theater. Tigran
Hamasyan with perform with special guest Emmet Lindsay. Doors are
at 7pm and the show starts at 8PM. The show is all-ages; minors OK
when accompanied by a parent or guardian. Tickets are $18 Advance
and $20 At the Door. There are $30 Preferred Seating (first 5 rows
of the front/center section) available, too.

We were told:

When Armenian-born pianist, keyboardist and occasional singer Tigran
saw a traditional Armenian shadow theater for the first time, he
felt the power of ambiguity. The silhouetted figures have no faces,
and they seem to be hiding multitudes of meaning. in that darkness,
the viewer must place her own story. With Shadow Theater, Tigran picks
up on that idea, offering a lush and energizing landscape that allows
listeners to dive in — and explore their own imaginations.

Shadow Theater shows the breadth of this young experimenter’s vision,
and it shows how much a young musician these days can make jazz and
folk music sound like experimental pop — and the other way around.

Tigran has already collaborated with figures ranging from American
electro post-hip-hop producer Prefuse 73 to Tunisian oud master Dhafer
Youssef, to Swedish cellist Lars Danielsson to French electronic
producer Fowatile as well as Norwegians Arve Henriksen, Jan Bang and
Eivind Aarset. Shadow Theater compounds the painterly piano playing
that won him First Place at the 2006 Thelonious Monk International
Jazz Piano Competition with folk influences from his native Armenia.

Along the way, it adds a bodily jolt of death metal and a range of
kinetic electronic textures that root the record firmly in the present,
and give it a greater appeal to non-jazz listeners than any of his
previous efforts.

The result lands somewhere between Madlib’s dragged-out beat wizardry
and Meshuggah’s doom-blasting sonic inferno, Sigur Ros’ lapsing
stratospheric textures and Steve Reich’s insistent crosshatchings. All
are stated influences on the pianist. You might say that it offers a
new meeting ground for experimental jazz and popular music, pointing to
a way forward for others — but then again, it’s hard to imagine anyone
else building something so personal and fluid out of these components.

More than anything, Tigran hopes that it will help listeners
investigate and illuminate their own experiences. “The album is
basically the contrary of the shadows in the theater, because the
sounds are cinematic and rich in colors. It’s the imagination,”
he says. “I let everybody imagine their own story behind the shadows.”

For the record, he’s joined by an A-list band of young innovators
mostly based in New York, featuring drummer Nate Wood and saxophonist
Ben Wendel of the jazz-rock band Kneebody, plus the multitalented
vocalist and Armenian folklorist Areni Agbabian and the bassist Sam
Minaie. The album is rounded out by a handful of string players and
electronic percussionists, as well as new touring drummer, Arthur
Hnatek, and bassist Chris Tordini.

Tigran was only 19 when he found himself catapulted to jazz stardom
after winning the prestigious Monk competition, but he was quick to
avoid picking up anyone else’s mantel: he dove into touring projects
with The Moutin Brothers largely in France and Europe, recorded as a
sideman with drummer Ari Hoenig and began an ongoing collaboration with
a group of then Los Angeles-based musicians (Tigran and his family had
moved to the Los Angeles area when the pianist was 14 and following
high school he attended the University of Southern California).

First was the saxophonist Ben Wendel, whom Tigran met at USC. The
resulting quintet Aratta Rebirth formed in 2009, featuring Wendel,
Wood (both of Kneebody) and Agbabian and Minaie (who both attended Cal
Arts), special guest Altura and other young comers on the jazz scene.

The band was a stunner: 2010’s Red Hail proposed an approachable
synthesis of zinging piano calisthenics, ethereal female vocals
and ethnic jazz fusion. The X factor was Tigran’s love affair with
metal, which gave the album a surprising ability to transcend its
own boundaries, matching beauty with destitution.

Three years later, he pushed himself zestfully into another
transformation, releasing the surprisingly lush solo album A Fable,
in which he performed overdubbed duets with himself. The opus —
which also featured some of Tigran’s own vocals — earned plaudits
from around the globe. In France he received a 2011 “Victoire de la
Musique” award (analogous to a Grammy(R) Award).

For Shadow Theater, Hamasyan abided by a rigorous process: He spent two
weeks rehearsing and recording the album in the South of France with
his band, an augmented version of Aratta Rebirth, then added another
month of postproduction. Listening to the record, you can tell it’s
the result of a fertile push-and-pull between one man’s strong vision
and an entire band’s comfortable communication. “I brought the songs
in all ready — I even had the drum beats in mind,” he said. “But
obviously, certain things work and certain things don’t work. It’s
one thing to do a really killing demo, with everything you imagine,
then another thing to actually bring it for the musicians to play.

Sometimes things got shifted around because the guys had their own
things to contribute.”

Additionally, Universal released a remix EP of the single “The Poet”
highlighting collaborations with Fowatile, Prefuse 73 and the bass
music producer LV. An integral part of Tigran’s new live show not
coincidentally involves the pianist leaving his main instrument and
appearing center-stage using a Roland TR808 drum machine and layering
his beats underneath his own singing and beat boxing, further revealing
a desire to shatter all expectations of someone known primarily as
a pianist.

When you listen to the Shadow Theater’s Technicolor brilliance
and folksy undercurrents, you feel the depth of what that process
produced. And you feel like Tigran could have cribbed a concept from
another crossover pioneer: this album depicts a “bright-size life.”