Given the current state of geopolitics and the human tragedy unfolding in Ukraine, pianist Tony Karapetyan finds himself an unwitting victim of the cultural cross-fire. A holder of dual Russian-Armenian nationality, he recently left his home in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod to return to Armenia and it is unclear whether he’ll ever go back.
Karapetyan’s decidedly western-facing trio has been active since 2012. While they’ve made a number of appearances at international festivals and competitions, Point Of View is their debut album. Five of the tracks feature brilliant German trumpeter Sebastian Studnitzky, a highly expressive player who can switch effortlessly from a Henriksen-like whisper to the full-throated cry of Manfred Schoof within a solo.
Yet even without the redoubtable Studnitzky the trio’s free-spirited music is worthy of our attention. Opener East-West is a thrilling push-pull battle between a brawny post-E.S.T. groove and a more refined mode of classical impressionism, the beat eventually gaining the upper hand. The bright and upbeat Apricot is not unlike Chick Corea’s Morning Sprite, Studnitky’s free-flowing solo providing the perfect counterbalance to Karapetyan’s pristine, Tynerish lines.
Long Way harbours a distinct air of melancholy, Karapetyan’s impassioned solo again spurring Studnitzky to extraordinary heights. The darker hues of Winter see the trumpeter at his lyrical zenith, while 5 x 5 arrives with a volley of crashing unisons. Easily the most playful piece of the set, it’s a world away from the romanticism of Ani, a tender ballad for a loved one.
Closing with a cleverly constructed shapeshifter that leaves us guessing as to where it will land, the record leaves me wondering where Karepetyan himself will land. Let’s hope he can follow in the footsteps of countryman Tigran Hamasyan, getting his music out into the world where it surely belongs.
East-West; Apricot; Long Way; Winter; 5 x 5; Ani; Musings (45.00)
Karapetyan (p, elp) with Yuri Barsukov (b); Petr Ivshin (d) and Sebastian Studnitzky (t) on 2, 3, 4, 5, 7. Nizhny Novgorod, no date.
Jazzist Records JZT CD 003