Improvising vocalist, folk singer, storyteller, pianist: on her ECM debut Areni Agbabian focuses the range of her skills in music that casts a quiet spell. A sparse music in which voice, piano and the subtle percussion of Nicolas Stocker (last heard on ECM with Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile ensemble), continually shade into silence. The California-born Agbabian, who came to international attention with the groups of Tigran Hamasyan, draws deeply upon her Armenian heritage, reinterpreting sacred hymns, a traditional tale, a folk melody transcribed by Komitas and more, and interspersing these elements among her own evocative compositions.
Areni Agbabian – voice and piano
Gagik Khodavirdi – electric guitar
Arman Jalalyan – drumset
Eric Sittner – bass
Breathing deeply, her vocal emphasizes sharp timing to convey a quiet minimalist powerDownbeat
Born in Santa Monica, CA, Areni Agbabian began humming melodies at the tender age of 11 months. Growing up in a world of unique sounds, by age four, she was hitting xylophones and drums, making melodies and rhythms, and singing folk songs and rhymes with her aunt, a trained opera singer and Armenian music specialist, and her mother, a storyteller and Armenian folklorist. These two women imprinted the Armenian language, its tones and inflections, into her body, tongue, and heart. From a very young age, they set her on a musical journey she continues today.
At age seven, she began a more strict study of classical piano that lasted for 20 years. By age 15, Areni had given numerous piano recitals, playing sonatas and even a concerto. Throughout, she continued her vocal studies, and by age 22, had sung in many choirs of Armenian sacred, Bulgarian folk and American music. Soon after, she was professionally performing traditional Armenian folklore and music. By age 27, she began fully integrating these various elements into her own original music and improvisations of voice and piano.