Published Jun 12, 2015After cutting his teeth as a sideman with two of the best Armenian jazz/world music hybrid projects, Arto Tuncboyaciyan's Armenian Navy Band and Vahagn Hayrapetyan's Katuner, this is cellist Artyom Manukyan's first foray into the limelight, and it falls squarely on the jazz side of the ledger. Citizen is an impressive first album, covering vast musical territory and emotional terrain.
Manukyan, who hails from Armenia but now calls Los Angeles home, seamlessly weaves together punchy, Jaco Pastorius-style licks and elegant bowed lines, combining a broad array of influences and an affinity for cross-genre exploration. "Waltz for Maya," dedicated to his daughter and overlaid with a track of her laughter, shows Manukyan's knack for melody and timing, while other tracks, like "Sailor's Song," "CityZen" and "Turgut to be True" are rich, textured jazz fusion numbers recalling the Weather Report era. But while some fusion can sound overly busy and cerebral, Manukyan's cello steers this music in an emotional and evocative direction from start to finish.
Hints of his homeland are interspersed throughout the album, subtly in percussion and melody lines, and literally in "3 Mas Dub," which samples the sounds of a Yerevan neighbourhood, while an instrumental arrangement of "Words," a piece by Armenian songwriter Ruben Hakhverdyan (also a mentor of Manukyan's), rounds out the album.
But this is also a distinctly Los Angeles endeavour, and includes a lineup of that city's greats, like Tim Lefebvre (bass), Jamire Williams (drums) and Troy Ziegler (electronics). A marriage of tradition and exploration, and a meeting of two worlds, Manukyan's album is a luscious endeavour, and hopefully, the first of many. (Independent)