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Levon Ichkhanian: After Hours

When contemporary jazz fans think of “world beat” elements, their “world” tends to be limited to South American, African and sometimes Asian influences. Pedigreed Canadian/Armenian guitarist Levon Ichkhanian brings a whole new slant to his appealing solo effort, After Hours (Mediterrano Productions LIP1068-2; 50:37), utilizing some exotic Middle Eastern components to add depth and perspective. There’s a good deal of jazz traditionalist in Ichkhanian’s tunes, many of which are built around club-jazz trio play, but the deep influences of the Lebanon-born guitarist resonate throughout. “Yerevan” is a tough-edged running trio piece grounded in fuzzy Hammond organ, but Ichkhanian crafts a twisted Middle Eastern melodic texture within. The swinging jazz waltz “Monte Carlo” has a dark, European feel. Even the Jeff Beck-recalling singing blues of “Caterina” benefits from a mix-in of world instruments. Ichkhanian uses these native instruments-like the doudouk, tabla and bouzouki-sparingly, and as full integral components. Sometimes the results are startling, as on “Siroun,” a traditional tune, marked by the plaintive wobbly wind instrument wail of the doudouk, which seamlessly blossoms into jazz hall atmospheres. These exciting pieces make it easy to forget another key component: Ichkhanian’s guitar work-which is equally impressive and effortless in Latin, blues and silky modern settings, and sometimes reaches dizzying speeds. All of these elements help to make After Hours one of the most original efforts of the year.

Originally Published