Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Armen Donelian: Leapfrog

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

The title of Armen Donelian’s new recording invites some guesswork until you flip the CD jacket and find a short note from the veteran pianist-composer: “Leapfrog is a game with no winners or losers. Everyone is in it for the fun. I like this approach to life, and to music.”

As do, apparently, his session mates: saxophonist Marc Mommaas, guitarist Mike Moreno, bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. Yet there’s nothing particularly lighthearted about this eight-track collection of mostly Donelian compositions. As the opening cut, “Rage,” vibrantly attests, the “fun” derives from fresh and fully integrated collaborations more than anything else. “Rage” is an intense opener, a spiraling theme that becomes tauter with each chorus, dramatically charged by Mommaas’ keening sax, Moreno’s streaming single-note lines and the rhythm section’s densely percussive attack. Drummer Sorey, however, can turn on a dime, which accounts for much of the album’s appeal.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published