AMN Reviews: Aram Bajakian – Dolphy Formations (2016; Sanasar Records)

Aram Bajakian is a guitarist of all trades – playing with Lou Reed, Diana Krall, Yusef Lateef, John Zorn, Marc Ribot, Nels Cline, James Carter, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Sean Lennon, Steven Bernstein, Billy Martin, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Mat Maneri, and many others. His own releases reflect this eclecticism, being all over the map so to speak, in terms of style. On Dolphy Formations, his most recent offering, Bajakian explores textures and drones.

The compositions are based on Eric Dolphy’s Synthetic Formations, scale-like structures that Dolphy gave to Yusef Lateef in 1961. Joining Bajakian on this exploration are Peggy Lee on cello and JP Carter on trumpet. All three navigate slowly-shifting passages, each holding notes for several seconds while the others modulate their own held notes. The result is near-ambient music, often hovering on the edges of perception, yet occasionally upping the volume and intensity.

The three aptly-titled tracks, Variation 1, Variation 2, and Variation 3 involve different patterns, but a similar overall feel. Particularly, this “long note” approach to improvised minimalism blends Bajakian’s distorted guitar, trumpet, and cello in an unusually pleasing fashion. The closest comparison that comes off the top of my head is to VidnaObmana’s Landscape in Obscurity, perhaps with some Sonic Youth, Morton Feldman, and Lou Reed thrown in.

Another solid outing from Bajakian, who continues to impress and surprise.

AMN Interview with Aram Bajakian:

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