Dedicated to the late Thomas Chapin, Quartet Language presents Donelian's two-night stand at New York's Visiones in May 1992 as it happened, with only minor editing for sequencing and track length. Available now for the first time, this recording is one of the only live documents of both Chapin's sideman work during his prime and the pianist/composer the All Music Guide called "a superb artisan." Recorded live to two-track DAT by noted engineer David Baker.
One Final Note Review: I mean no disrespect to Armen Donelian to say that this session belongs to the late Thomas Chapin. Indeed, Chapin's participation on this recording, made in 1991, led directly to its release eleven years later by guitarist Michael Musillami's intrepid little label.
It's a document of two nights at the New York Club Visiones, where Chapin and Donelian, joined by bassist Calvin Hill and Jeff Williams on drums, were recorded live to two-track DAT by David Baker. The sound is close, but not uncomfortable, and it only serves to make Chapin's urgent, imploring tone almost unbearably intimate. On the slow pedal-point dirge "Brood Mood", it glows with the heat and imminent danger of hot iron. Here and on the stuttering funk of the opening "Jabberwocky", Chapin is a thinking man's David Sanborn. With the shortest of the five cuts on the hour-long program clocking in at ten minutes, he gets plenty of room to stretch out, but that's not always a good thing. Chapin's second solo on the 13-minute-long "Loose As A Goose" is largely an exercise in circular breathing. But as Donelian's booklet note explains, the performances are presented as they were performed with no post-production. The honesty of this approach matches Chapin's.
As a pianist, Donelian is chameleonic, funky and Monk-y on "Jabberwocky", and deeply emotional on the slow, Hadenesque bolero, "Mexico"; indeed, his compositions are where he really shines. "The Germ" has a tricky unison head that moves from a free feeling into tempo (a device mirrored in the solo choruses—duets between Chapin and Williams, then the leader and Hill). Both "The Germ" and "Jabberwocky" alternate between meters (in the latter case, 10 bars of 7 followed by 8 bars of four). That keeps things interesting, while Hill and Williams, longtime associates of Donelian's, keep things steady. But it's Chapin who keeps your attention and keeps you listening. You move a little closer to the speakers every time he's on.