Tigran Hamasyan ‘Mockroot’ (Nonesuch) 3/5

tigran-mamasyanTigran Hamasyan makes his Nonesuch debut with “Mockroot”, a diverse, yet somewhat unsatisfying album. For his latest outing he is joined by Sam Minaie on bass and Arthur Hnatek on drums and electronic duties. Let’s get one thing straight from the off: Tigran is undoubtedly an exceptionally gifted musician. Born in Armenia in 1987, before relocating to Los Angeles 2003, he now resides back in his homeland. Trained classically and as a jazz musician, Tigran draws on a wide range of influences, including Armenian folk music, electronica, poetry, jazz and classical music. Maybe sometimes a blessing can be more of a curse. My issue with “Mockroot” is that it promises so much, but in the end delivers too little. For all its varied influences, ranging from lovely folk melodies to syncopated jazz-rock, a lack of cohesion permeates the album – It’s all a bit confusing. Yes there is some exquisite musicianship, and yes, there are some very worthwhile moments. Highlights include “Kars 1” with its sweeping beauty, as it effortlessly drifts into an early Pat Metheny-like opus; “The road that brings me closer to you” with its operatic-like vocal and grunge rock eventually blending into a thoughtful mindfulness of breathing; “Lilac” with its gorgeous folk melody and luscious melancholic beauty. But overall it leaves me slightly frustrated, wanting to like it more than I actually do. I struggle with some of the more up-tempo playing – it almost sounds as if he’s going through the motions, doing what’s expected in a perversely commercial kind of way. Some of the changes within each composition sound as if they are made simply because the writer has the talent to do so, not because they are the right thing to do. Energy and a cumulative emotion is one thing, making something louder through piling on the instruments or clever production is quite another.

Undoubtedly there is a 5 star album waiting to be made by Tigran, it’s just not happening at this moment in time.

Herbie Hancock once said he felt Tigran was now “the teacher”. Far be it for me to disagree with the legend that is Herbie Hancock, but if we take this CD on its own merit, Tigran is still very much the student, in need of the master’s guidance.

Mike Gates