Date: September 27, 2012
Venue: Paper Box (Brooklyn)
Concert review and photo by Dawoud Kringle
On an unseasonably warm night in late September, I trekked to one of those desolate areas of Brooklyn where small autonomous zones of artists and musicians are carving out a piece of the world they can call their own. It was at a new music venue in a warehouse district that I attended a performance of TrioTarana, led by Ravish Momin. He was joined by Rick Parker on trombone, and Areni Agbabian on vocals.
Momin is a percussionist who had studied with Andrew Cyrille, Bob Moses, Ian Froman, and Misha Masud, and performed with Shakira, Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, Dawoud, Sabir Mateen, Peter Epstein, Billy Bang, and many others. He has developed a unique approach to drums, percussion, and electronics (mainly with the use of the Ableton Live software for Mac) that he has shared with audiences throughout the world.
Parker is a trombonist relatively new to the NYC scene. He has performed with George Benson, Grady Tate, Eddie Henderson, Steve Turre, Cecil Bridgewater, Frank Lacy, and others in major venues. He was named a winner of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Awards for 2004/2005. In April of 2002 and 2003, he participated in the Kennedy Center’s “Betty Carter Jazz Ahead” invitation only workshop for composers/soloists where he studied under Curtis Fuller, Eric Reid and John Clayton. In 2002 he was named runner up in the Eastern Trombone Workshop National Solo Competition. His primary musical project, the Rick Parker Collective.
Agbabian is a classically trained vocalist and pianist. She has performed and toured with Tigran Quintet, Jesske Hume, Jonathan Goldberger, Butch Morris, Qasim Naqvi, Julia Wilkins, Tony Malaby, Aakaash Israni, Mat Maneri and others; and worked with new opera, dance, contemporary jazz, new music and multi-media performance.
The performance began with Parker creating a soundscape of electronic sounds and samples. Momin responded to the mood that was created with a beat that grew to a full musical structure. Then, the trombone began its melody, and the two explored the possibilities of the composition. Momin’s drums had an endless sense of sympathy and synchronicity with the electronic sounds he and Parker produced. It blurred the lines between the electronic and organic. Parker shows a brilliant sense of melody, and improvisation. He used signal processing on his trombone to great dramatic effect.
On the 2nd song, Agbabian joined them. A pedestrian beat was held down by Momin’s laptop; a clap; with Parker’s pads weaving around it. Then the organic drums came in, laying down a 6/8 beat that grooved nicely. Agbabian used electronic signal processing on her voice in a way that was powerful without being overdone. Every note she sang, and every way she processed her vocals, was always pleasing to the ear.
The group’s improvisations we’re inventive and always held surprises without relying on the kind of self serving exercises in ego gratification that some free / improvisational music indulges in. There were parts where the bone and vox dueted the same melody, the structure was always beautiful. And Momin’s work formed a powerful framework and complimentary ornamentation to the melodies and sounds weaving in and out of his foundation. After a few more pieces, Agbabian left the stage, and Tarana finished their performance as a duo. They proceeded with a composition in 7/8. After the song’s head, Parker played with the space in the music, measured and meditative melodies with heavy processing like a 21st centuary Benny Powell.
The group’s final song had a mysterious, edgy feel. The drums created this, and the trombone commented on the mysterious rhythms. The song’s head had characteristics of a teehi (a musical device used in Indian classical music: doubtless Momin’s influence). At times the melody seemed to be on the verge of collapse, but always reassembled its own integrity. Drums were always adventurous and bravely held down the best while never a slave to its own synthetic beats. Every moment of the group’s music was compelling and innovative. There was no lack of depth of meaning in their work.
Tarana is one of the brilliant groups of musicians in New York’s underground that is fighting for financial and critical survival. While New York City – indeed, much of the US – is fertile ground for the creation of these innovative musical works. But the venues and audiences for it exist elsewhere. It cannot survive unless it is exported. This does not speak well of a country that fails to appreciate its greatest artists.
Other recommended Trio Tarana posts