Armen Donelian | Piano
Carl Morten Iversen | Bass
Audun Kleive | Drums
- Song With No Name (Donelian/Iversen/Kleive)
- Conception (Shearing)
- Broken Carousel (Donelian)
- Seasons' Change (Donelian)
- In Your Own Sweet Way (Brubeck)
- Secrets (Donelian)
- Cockeyed Blues (Donelian)
- Angel Eyes (Dennis/Brent)
- Metropolitan Madness (Donelian)
Recorded July 11, 1987 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo, Norway (CD) (Released only in Norway)
Klassekampen (Norway, 1988)
Three musicians meet and great music originates. That is the shortest thing you can say about this record. Trio '87 must be one of the greatest surprises in Norwegian jazz record production. Not that we don't know that these musicians, individually, are very good, but to witness such a successful musical meeting in a piano-trio format is something out of the ordinary in this country.
Let us therefore present: Armen Donelian, American pianist in his late thirties. The Norwegian audience first heard him when he played with Billy Harper's quintet in Molde almost ten years ago. His surname in particular bears witness to family roots in a Soviet republic with great unrest under its skies. About Armen the musician: He has issued three previous records under his own name, the first one with Eddie Gomez and Billy Hart, the second one alone and the third a sextet. After Molde, he has visited Norway on several occasions. Some of you will remember a memorable session when he sat in with Chet Baker at the Hot House playing "My Funny Valentine." A more beautiful rendition of this classic tune has hardly been heard.
He has toured with his Norwegian musicians and could be heard at the Cafe Nordraak in Oslo last year. Bass player Carl Morten Iversen is a veteran in Norwegian jazz, while the younger drummer Audun Kleive like Iversen has his background in bands like Extended Noise and Oslo 13, as well as with Terje Rypdal and The Chasers.
Trio '87 is--without disparagement on any part but rather its opposite--trio-playing in the Bill Evans tradition, a tradition later developed by the acoustic Chick Corea: this loose interplay where all three musicians are both more equal and freer than in traditional piano-trios. And this record is proof that great music originates. The first tune, "Song With No Name," is thus named because it came about while the engineer, Jan Erik Kongshaug, was setting the levels. It may be the finest track on the record and it sets the groove to a session worth listening to from the first note to the last. Carl Morten Iversen's fine bass work is excellent, in terms of both the sound and the music, and Audun Kleive is brilliant with his loose but at the same time distinct and extremely inventive playing. Donelian himself states in the liner notes that Norwegian musicians are very familiar with the American jazz tradition, but at the same time they are freer than him. They have a more relaxed, "loose" approach to playing, something that suits him just fine.
Anyway--here are nine compositions, the first by the trio, the second by George Shearing, most of the rest by Armen Donelian except for Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way"--everything delightfully performed. Don't let the oncoming dark season overwhelm you. Listen to Trio '87 instead.
- Roald Helgheim
Donelian teams up with a Norwegian rhythm section for his strongest release to date. Possibly the most impressive thing about Trio '87 is that it sounds as if this group has been playing together for years. The musical chemistry is such that the opener, a warm up improvisation for the trio with no theme, wound up being used as the lead off track. The piece has the accomplished looseness of the great Evans/Lafaro/Motian trio.
Donelian keeps growing as a player with each release. When one hears his tackle a piano favorite like "In Your Own Sweet Way" one hears original lines, an original rhythmic approach and an original arrangement. Strongly recommended, especially to those who favor piano trios.
- Robert J. Iannopollo
This is one of the most pleasing trios I've heard in some time. Donelian, who studied piano with Richie Beirach, has a lilting, impressionistic touch to his playing, a keen ability to swing and some beautiful compositions. Donelian doesn't break any new ground or chart new musical directions on this disc, but he plays with such panache, who cares? Mood music in the best sense, this is the record you want after a long and arduous journey.
- John Baxter
Pianist Armen Donelian was responsible for one of the great unsung piano trio recordings of the '80's (Trio '87), a recording very much in the tradition of Bill Evans' trio music of the early 60's.
- Robert J. Iannopollo