61 year-old pianist Armen Donelian, a New York City native who now lives in upstate New York but who has traveled the globe as a jazz artist and as Fulbright scholar, has played all kinds of music during his lifetime. He studied classical music intensely and he allows other influences to seep in to his creativity. But he's attracted to jazz, leading his own groups of various sizes and playing with the likes of saxophonist Sonny Rollins
, percussionist Mongo Santamaria
and trumpeter Chet Baker
His recordings have a noteworthy consistency. His first album as a leader, Stargazer
(Atlas, 1981), was a trio outing with outstanding musicians (bassist Eddie Gomez
and drummer Billy Hart
), but the pianist has set a high standard throughout his discography for improvisation, expression and execution. Donelian has the chops to execute ideas and the passion to reach for them. He explores paths that he finds interesting on Leapfrog
(Sunnyside, 2011), a strong quintet date featuring guitarist Mike Moreno
and longtime saxophone colleague Marc Mommaas
. It's a collection of original tunes, thoughtfully melded. Lyrical and intriguing. Another fine creation.R.J. DeLuke
spoke with Donelian earlier in the year, about the recording of Leapfrog
and the pianist's ongoing and pivotal" relationship with Mommaas; about finding the right band for a specific set of music; and how the simplest of instructions from a former employer encouraged him on the path he's chosen ever since.
Check out Armen Donelian: Consummate Musician
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