Tigran Hamasyan, "An Ancient Osberserver" (Nonesuch)
The 29-year old jazz pianist from Armenia has some of the great pianists in current jazz lining up to sing his praises -- Herbie Hancock, for instance.
Every time you hear him, though, you understand perfectly why it was that before Hamasyan's first disc was ever released in America, Chick Corea was excitedly telling interviewers on the telephone that he had discovered in Armenia the most exciting jazz pianist he'd heard in a long time. This solo disc which Hamasyan augments with overdubbed voices and synthesizers is like a brilliant Eastern European outgrowth of Corea's music -- richly and irresistibly melodic (full of Armenian folk authority) and unrestrained fancy with no concern whatsoever about what might be jazz and what might be classical music.
Along with his native Armenia, Hamasyan is happy to pay tribute to hip-hop and Baroque music too. Where he lives in Armenia, he says, he can see "the biblical mountain Ararat with perpetual snow on its peak, with electrical towers with wires in the foreground cutting the picture, and satellite dishes melted onto old and modern houses--ancestral smoke coming out of their chimneys--and birds hovering above the trees along with occasional airplane trails in the vast sky."
It is, like Corea's best music, a deeply poetic kind of omni-music, full of innocence and no naivete whatsoever. Some of this is through-composed; some leaves plenty of room for jazz improvisation with formidable chops. Every bit as infectious and captivating as his last record on Nonesuch, "Mockroot."
3 1/2 stars (out of four)