Personnel: Alan Shavarsh Bardezbanian (oud); Bau Graves (guitar); Michael Gallant (violin); Beth Borgerhoff (accordion, piano); Eric LaPerna (dumbek, rik).
A nice collection of oud playing from the late Alan Shavarsh Bardezbanian, this album collects dance tunes from around the Mediterranean horn, as it were. The core of the music is Armenian (as was Bardezbanian), but there are Greek tunes picked up from his time working a taverna; Turkish tunes derived from the maqam system handed down by Bardezbanian's mentor, Esper Koprucu; and a stray peshrev or two. On top of this are inflections of what seems almost to be klezmer from time to time. This isn't really the intent, but the modal systems used occasionally turn the sound to a rather Jewish format (one almost hears "Hava Nagila" in one or two places). Bardezbanian's fluency with the clarinet only cements the klezmer parallels further. Regardless of the specific styles, though, Bardezbanian's playing is the real star here. He can allow the oud to serve as a bit player in a larger ensemble when the song calls for it, or he can step out in front with an entirely capable solo. This is really what he does best -- pick the oud at lightning speed with incredible sensitivity to the melody. If you are looking for a quick overview of the oud, you can't do much better than this album. Classic players like Udi Hrant and George Mgrdichian can be heard in their own ways in this music, though they are the logical next step for investigating after a listener has experienced Bardezbanian's playing. ~ Adam Greenberg