Vardan Ovsepian (p), Mick Goodrick (g), Joshua Davis (b), Take Toriyama (d), Monica Yngvesson (vcl)
Bar code: 8427328421423
"Vardan Ovsepain was born in 1975, in Armenia. He started playing piano at the age of five, and was soon accepted into the Junior Music School where he studied for eight years. He went on to study at Melikyan College, majoring in Music Theory. In 1992, he entered Yerevan State Conservatory majoring in Classical Composition, two years later he was transfered to the Estonian State Music Academy where he studied Contemporary Composition. In 1995, following his strong interest and passion for jazz and improvised music Vardan moved to Finland, to attend the Helsinki Jazz Conservatory.
His dream was fulfilled when he was awarded a scholarship ro Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he majored in Piano Performance and graduated in May 2000. At present he is teaching at the Music School in Newburyport, MA.
"Having had the chance to play with him (and to record with him), I can only say that he is the real deal, and the whole package."
"Ovsepian's controlled energy delights"
-Portland Press Herald (December 2, 2002)
"Though cooking was probably the last thing most folks wanted to be reminded of as Thanksgiving weekend approached it close, there was a definite simmer to the music of the Vardan Ovsepian Quintet at the Center for Cultural Exchange on Saturday night.
Pianist/composer Vardan Ovsepian, who has been a periodic visitor to the state in recent years, practices a very subtle and sophisticted brand of jazz that often seems as if it is just barely containing its considerable energy beneath a cooled-down surface.
At the surface, there's a chamber-line quality to his work, particularly when vocalist Monica Yngvession wordlessly doubles the melodic lines of the leader and/or guitarist Mick Goodrick, as she did for much of the two-hour concert. Her cool soprano assed immeasurably to the delicate, refined beauty of Ovsepian's arranged compostions.
Underneath these emphatic thematic elements, bassist Josh Davis added plucked counterpoint and bowed tones to flesh out the music, while drummer Take Toriyama rattled and rumbled, providing a busy rhythmic engine to the quintet's balanced but flexible sound.
Much of the material offered was from the group's new CD, "Sketch Book" (Fresh Sound New Talent) and emphasized the varying and carefully proportioned improvisational openings of Ovsepian's distinctive concept.
The leader's "Vana Lina" began the show, as it does the album, by establishing the quiet but focused sense of development that this band seems to relish. A haunting opening piano line led to a subtle vamp that signaled the entrance of Yngvesson's ethereal vocalizations, beneath which the pianist soloed.
Seemingly over before it began, the piece nevertheless suggested a world of influences that the Armenia-born composer - trained in Estonia, Finland and the United States - brings to the musical table.
"Kings and Queens" followed with its Bach-like opening theme, sung in parallel by Ovsepian and Yngvesson, leading to a much freer passage for piano.
When Ovsepian improvises on keyboard, his style has the sort of precise expansiveness of players such as Keith Jarrett, who rides upon uneven tempos, searching for moments to burst the bubble of form.
Ovespian's music shifts easily between passages that reveal his classical technique and those that showcase his obvious affection for the interpretive opportunites of jazz.
A version of Dave Holland's "Jumpin' In" gave Yngvesson the chance to do a bit of improvising as well, and the lyrical direction she took warmed up the music in a welcome way. So did a later tune in a jazz/rock vein that gave the waif-like vocalist from Sweden the only actual words she sang all night.
Veteran Goodrick, who many remember from his days in Gary Burton's group, offered mostly "just" understated elegance to the program, but he did solo forcefully on bassist Davis' "V Baby" and on a piece of his own.
Certainly the senior member of this otherwise youthful group, Goodrick's presence may ultimately have a good deal to do with the future direction of the ensemble, if they continue to work together.
The standing ovation they received Saturday from a surprisingly large crowd shows there's a growing number who believe they should."
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