Tigran Hamasyan, David Torn, Frank Martino

Tigran Hamasyan, David Torn, Frank Martino

Aug 12, 2020 0 By Marcello Nardi

Tigran Hamasyan – The Call Within (Nonesuch, 2020)

While a class of jazz musicians, mostly of the New York avantgarde area, started mixing jazz with metal genre, Tigran Hamasyan has taken a road of his own, disembodying the inner aggressiveness of metalheads and finding an unparalled mixture with the lyricism of Armenian folk tradition. The pianist born in a small country at the verge of many worlds and grown through an early accolade of recognition in Los Angeles, has nurtured a unique language that is instantly recognizable, whether it’s the piano solo wandering through the Armenian songbook, through electronic soundscapes or impossible and deflagrating rhthmic beats.

The Call Within, his fourth album on Nonesuch, comes back to where he started with his initial release on the label, Mockroot: a piano trio recording enriched by impressively deep basses, tearing polyrhythmic nets and lacerating emotionality. The early reaction of fans to the first snippets of the album -a fanbase that belongs to different tribes affiliaited with jazz, progressive rock and classical- acknowledged the creative mark of a musician that has already put a spell on a generation of musicians in the last decade.

Levitation 21 starts with a melancholy minor progression dubbed with the trademark moaning of the pianist, that soon dialogues with the frantic rhythmic section by bassist Evan Marien and drummer Arthur Hnatek. At around the 1 minute mark the main theme, an impressively virtuoso polyrhythmic net of descending riffs, rains down over the piece. If virtuoso has been the trademark of many emulators of Hamasyan, none seemed to get even closer to how he manipulates it in a utterly emotional way.

He loves combining the old with contemporary elements: take the laid-back and singing soul groove in Our Film, a track that features special guests Areni Agbabian and Artyom Manukyan, that eventually moves in a proggish nightmare of start-and-stops breaks in the bridge section. Or the fast funk opening Ara Resurrected, that again perfectly fits with the melancholic chorus of the explorative pianist.

The Call Within is an exploration of old and new maps of ancient worlds. Similarly, Vortex is kind of the missing link in the evoluation of the language of the pianist, which was hugely influenced by djent metal and their predecessors, Swedish metal band Meshuggah. The track features the djent virtuoso Tosin Abasi at the electric guitar: the main unison riff between the guitarist and the pianist is an impressive display of scattered and rhythmically-moving debris. Yet Hamasyan‘s hugely deep mastering of left-handed fourths and fifths provides even more aggressiveness to Abasi‘s 8-stringed distorted guitar. New Maps follows a similar direction in building contrasting structures of layers of fat bassess, added with virtuoso themes that explode in sheer lyrical intermissions.

The Call Within is a statement from a musician that is able to swallow evey musical sound around, to decline it according to the rule of the world he was born in and let it deflagrate with inusitate intensity.

Tigran Hamasyan – The Call Within

1 Levitation 21
2 Our Film
3 Ara Resurrected
4 At a Post-Historic Seashore
5 Space of Your Existence
6 The Dream Voyager
6 Old Maps
8 Vortex
9 37 Newlyweds
10 New Maps

Tigran Hamasyan – piano and electronics
Evan Marien – electric bass
Arthur Hnatek – drums


David Torn – FUR/TORN (Screwgun Records, 2020)

Five years later David Torn gets back where he left off with his latest solo, the ECM release only sky. Not exactly that, however: although FUR/TORN, released on Screwgun Records along with Tim Berne‘s solo Sacred Vowels, is his new solo release in 5 years, yet it is kind of hard to distinguish Torn‘s solo work in comparison to his releases with Sun of Goldfinger or Sonar. His playing seems to be following the same trajectory, whether he is playing with other musicians, solo or even sitting at the mixing desk, like he’s capable of unleashing the same energy whether dialoguing with himself or the others.

There’s this gigantic riff at the start of swayed. (there’s somewhat David Gilmour‘s intro theme in Sorrow). Few pedals, a wall of sound. The granularity of distortion, feedbacks. Like a whole vertical score, in few seconds. An exploration that could be visible via a mixing software, more than the score. A stumbling pattern, looping in the background. Dialoguing between itself, the guitar elicits few sketches of lyricism counterpointed by minimal cyclical noises. Until closing with this unadulterated wall of chords.

David Torn has garnered a wide acclaimed recognition as one of the master guitarists around, crafting and honing alien sounds in the last 40 years with unique artists such as David Bowie, David Sylvian, Don Cherry, Jan Garbarek and Tim Berne. And while his style has been a point of reference for many, yet he is still incredibly unique. It’s about the small attention in details, like in this solo recording that contains no overdubs that comes from recordings made in the last three years. The haunting clock-like pulse in where’d i bury that stupid clock, followed by the unexpected clean chord progressions liberating the listener to new horizons. Or it’s about the surprising Easter eggs glancing in the more reflective improvisations. Like the bluesy riff at 10 minutes mark in the same track. Or the convoluted, twisted improvisation in the middle of balet pentru un orizont disparu, that barely hints at eastern European folklore.

FUR/TORN shows the earthly, fleshly, yet extraterrestrial side of Torn‘s ability to master pedals, whammy bar and distortion knobs. Ripping, hypnotic, mesmerizing, the music of David Torn evolves through a magma of sounds, that reveals glimpes of beauty, dripping through the cracks on the earth.

David Torn

1.but not remote 03:38
2.swayed 08:34
3.where’d i bury that stupid clock 14:44
4.balet pentru un orizont disparut 06:07
5.lone rider, open plains 08:33
6.outsider 11:02
7.someday find a waltz 05:44
8.they were then, now & again 07:53

Recorded & mixed by DT between 2017-2020 at Cell Labs Eastern Cell, Bearsville


 Frank Martino: Disorgan – Ego Boost (Auand, 2020)

Listeners who crave for the self-indulgent and lavish orchestrations of progressive rock should not be intimidated to admit appreciation for the snobbery side of the jazz improvisations and the other way around. Italian guitarist Frank Martino, under the shield of a threatening 8-stringed metal axe, doesn’t really care to play on the razor’s edge and melts his Ego Boost in a musical pot that contains contemporary jazz leanings, prog influenced intricated phrasing, tinged with the right amount of electronica and indie rock.

Frank Martino‘s Disorgan is now reaching the mark of the third release for Italian jazz label Auand, since the band started in 2015. The trio now upgrades to a quartet with addition of sax player Massimiliano Milesi, completing the lineup made by Claudio Vignali at keys and Niccolò Romanin at drums and, of course, Martino himself. Taking a bold direction towards a contemporary jazz open to the electronic influences and yet not surrendering to the rendition of jazzy pop hooks, mixing the indie rock and metal with jazz, yet with no indulgent mimicry, Disorgan has garnered a cold, experimental-oriented aesthetic of its own.

The fierce counterpoint made of Martino‘s descending unorthodox riff, contrasting with up and down scales by Milesi and scattering rhythms by Vignali give a thrilling opening to the odd metered 5443. There’s more of Dream Theater than any contemporary jazz musician could ever admit. The leader seldom takes the stage, usually enjoying the bumping and scrappy bass lines or the reverberated clean guitar accompaniement, that owe so much to the indie. Maybe an exception could be the bumping Raving with the Cats, a fast tempo that alternates bars in 7, when the guitarist elicits a clever, bouncing solo that links together jazz phrasing with the right, delicious amount of guitar-shred show off.

Martino, who is also an electronic music producer, loves often to build intricate themes -take the main theme in the fast rock Fring- as well as peaceful ambientscapes. The addition of the earthly and heartfelt playing by Milesi perfectly counterbalances what the guitarist and Vignali at Fender Rhodes create in the most pensive sections, smoothing the edge of the previous albums. Ego Boost is somber and stark at the same time, joyous and intellectual, indicating an interesting direction from musicians who don’t get intimidated by boldly mixing genres.


Frank Martino: Disorgan

Ego Boost 

1 5443
2 Raving with the Cats
3 Split the Brain
4 Fring
5 Bruno Wasp
6 Gravy Train
7 Trees of Silence and Fire

Massimiliano Milesi tenor saxophone

Claudio Vignali fender rhodes, korg MS20

Frank Martino 8-string guitar, live electronics

Niccolò Romanin drums

Recording Data

Produced by Frank Martino
Executive Producer: Marco Valente
Recorded at Art Music Studio on february 3-4, 2020 – Italy