Djivan_gasparyan-black_rock_span3
January/February 1999

Djivan Gasparyan/Michael Brooks
Black Rock
Real World

Another new Realworld release based on the convergence of cultures is Black Rock (Realworld 7243 8 46230; 44:07), bringing together the renowned Armenian duduk player Djivan Gasparyan with world-rock-whatever guitarist-producer Michael Brooks, a hyphenate-happy musician if ever there were one. Brooks has done similar hybrid projects with such non-western legends as the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and, as with that project, Night Song, the Gasparian project is a qualified rush, a watering-down of the initial profundity of the inspiration.

Gasparyan has also enjoyed the embrace of a wide public thanks to the support of Peter Gabriel, Michael Stipe, and others. Brook was the producer on Gasparyan's moving solo 1993 recording Moon Shines at Night, but the producer steps up and steps in this time around. Hearing Gasparyan in this westernized, wired-up context amounts to a nice idea nicely stocked with pleasant moments, ambient hypnosis, and sonorous riches.

What is missing, though, is the deep spirit of ageless longing heard through the expressive agent of Gasparyan's venerable duduk, which seems clothed in a too-slick, ill-fitting suit.

It goes without saying that so-called "world music"- still a controversial moniker, basically for music outside the western domain-has benefited greatly from the interest of pop celebrities, Peter Gabriel on down. George Winston figures into that pattern, as well. A humble sort who still can't quite figure out how his modest talents on piano have earned him a coveted spot in the music industry, has channeled his considerable love of music into action on the behalf of those he admires. And one of his cherished musical strains is Hawaiian slack key guitar, a style which Winston is handier at than piano-playing. Go figure.

Originally published in January/February 1999
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