Michael Sarian: Living At The End Of The World

NY-based trumpeter reminds of Tomasz Stanko and Enrico Rava in a set touching on loose modalism, Latin ballad, second-line and hip-hop


Born in Toronto but raised in Buenos Aires, the instrumentalist and composer Michael Sarian (t, c, flh) lives in New York where his life is filled by many a project, including big band and small group work as well as teaching.

Sarian’s surname and the title of the first track here – an arrangement of a piece by Sayat Nova, the 18th century Armenian poet and troubadour – suggest the impact of Armenian roots. And indeed, the late Armenian-American Paul Motian remains a major inspiration, together with, e.g., trumpeters Tomasz Stanko and Enrico Rava, with the latter’s 1976 ECM album The Pilgrim And The Stars furnishing the inspiration for Sarian’s The Pilgrim. 

Literature also inspires Sarian, including work by the contemporary Japanese author Haruki Murakami. However, the chief point to underline here is the diversely inflected potency of Sarian’s now intimate, now overtly expressive sound – hear the opening track, Picklepuss Romp, Regarding Kobe and Max – allied to a most welcome open-mindedness to the resonance of evolving figures and forms, pitched fruitfully between finely crafted composition and free-rolling and sparkling group improvisation.

His long-time collaborators here offer pithy, pin-bright contributions to a poetics which includes both second-line testifying and a transmuted hip-hop groove (Picklepuss Romp) and the assurance of a deliciously sprung old-time bluesy shuffle challenged by the deconstructive potentialities of electric piano and Minimoog (the title track). Chilean vocalist and guitarist Camila Meza brings a sustained lyrical note to the lovely Cina Marina, while Regarding Kobe (a tribute to the late American basketball legend Kobe Bryant) and Max (a valediction to a close personal friend) offer diversely realised but equally affecting takes on the archetypal themes of loss and lament.

Highly recommended, this music is presented on the CD cover as Michael Sarian’s Living At The End Of The World. But since the final track is titled Living At The End Of The World I have chosen to present the disc’s title as above – as it appears in the advance promotional material.

(1) Yis Ku Ghimetn Chim Gidi (I Don’t Know Your True Value); The Pilgrim; Oysters; Maverick Road; (2) Cinta Marina; Picklepuss Romp; (1) Regarding Kobe; Living At The End Of The World; Max (58.27)
(1) Sarian (t, flh); Santiago Leibson (p, elp, moog); Marty Kenney (b); Nathan Ellman-Bell (d).
(2) as (1) plus Camila Meza (v, elg). Roselle, New Jersey 15 & 16 June 2021.
ears & eyes Records EE 22 169