Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Aram Bajakian - There Were Flowers Also in Hell (Aram Bajakian, 2014)

Originally planned as a blues record, Aram Bajakian's new album shape-shifted into something a little different over the course of recording with bassist Shazhad Ismaily and drummer Jerome Jennings. The moods and modes began to expand and he drew on the experience of playing with musicians as diverse as Lou Reed and Diana Krall to create an album that encompasses a wide range of emotional expression. They absolutely blast out of the gates with the most blues influenced track on the album, “Texas Cannonball.” It’s a wonderful in your face stew of rock/blues/twang guitar with a furious bass and blues backbeat. Imagine one of Freddie King’s great instrumental shuffles blasted into orbit and you get the idea. This segues into Bajakian’s tribute to his former boss Lou Reed, “Louish.” Developing a droning and buzzing tone like Reed often used as a signature guitar technique, the trio moves into a spacier meditation, before returning to the vibrating drone to end the performance. “Requiem for 5 Pointz” slows things down to an atmospheric and elegiac tone poem that has some sparks of energy shooting like comets against the evening sky. Going in the opposite direction entirely, “Orbisonian” takes off for some breathless fun with snarling guitar arcing over loping bass and drums. They mine a funky groove on “Rent Party” digging in and getting dirty and gritty, channeling blues musicians who played real rent parties in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s like John Lee Hooker, stomping hard and clearing the floor to dance. “Labor on 57th” is a very interesting performance as the trio balances two different grooves: one a spare, spacey feel that is juxtaposed against a faster paced section that sounds like the theme of an TV show from another dimension. Finally on “The Kids Don’t Want To Sleep” there is some serious heavy metal grinding with wicked percussion and snarling heavy stomp. Bajakian brings it all back home on the closing track “For Julia.” An emotional solo guitar performance, he ends this album with a touch of mystery and mindfulness that bodes well for the future.