The duduk, an Armenian folk instrument resembling the oboe, was brought to the popular West via a 1989 album on Brian Eno's Opal label by the master of the instrument, Djivan Gasparyan. Since that time, Gasparyan has become a renowned figure and has performed around the world. The instrument, in the hands of another Armenian master, Gevorg Dabaghyan, has been making its way onto recordings by other artists as well: Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road project, Atom Egoyan's Ararat soundtrack, and, of course, on world tour with the Shoghaken Ensemble, of which Dabaghyan is a founding member. This collection of 15 songs features various aspects of the Armenian folk and spiritual traditions, played exquisitely with all of the emotion and luster the instrument is capable of expressing when played by a master. Unlike most of Mr. Gasparyan's recordings, Dabaghyan uses more than just a second drone duduk for his presentations. Percussion is an integral part of his world, and he employs it here, brining the age-old music of the Caucasus Mountains to the rest of the world. The most beautiful track here is a folk dance called "Shiraki," in which the duduk literally weaves its way through the cut-time percussion that changes both time signature and rhythmic accent after each chorus. The melody is sprightly and bright, like a Celtic reel though far more ethereal, as if heaven itself were holding a celebration. Also wonderful is the haunting "Krengeli," another dance, which seems as if it would accompany a ritual, such are its spare majesty and mysterious changes that move in and out of harmonic and rhythmic cadences. This is a delightful recording full of many moods and flavors, all of them dignified and worthy of deep listening.
by Thom Jurek