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Visiting Armenian Musicians Shine with Baboians and Company Summer Concert

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BELMONT, Mass. (A.W.)—On Aug. 17, Berklee School of Music guitar professor John Baboian, his son guitarist Alex Baboian, drummer Karen Kocharyan, and visiting bass guitarist Artyom Manukyan and saxophonist Artur Grigoryan presented a summer jazz concert at the First Armenian Church.

A scene from the concert.

A scene from the concert.

Beginning with Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” the band opened with smooth base, perfectly timed drums, and lead Nuevo-Spanish guitar by the elder Baboian that cut through the molasses of the summer heat with ease.

Alex Baboian rifted together with his father, not like dueling banjos but like a symbiotic marmalade of Jobim tonal bliss.

But whenever Grigoryan’s sax cut into the set for another solo, the audience applauded to be swayed in his dazzling notes again like a woman giddy on champagne.

Between sets, John Baboian recounted how he met Grigoryan and Manukyan. “Last June, Armenia sent a delegation to the U.S. to learn how to raise awareness for the arts in Armenia and it was then that Berklee and Armenian organizations started talking about sending over musicians to Boston.”

The band continued with “All the Things You Are.” Grigoryan bleated his notes with the beatnik romance and cheeky nonchalance of a Bukowski Cuba Libre with a Tom Collins chaser, which led deftly into R. Silver’s “For My Father,” where Alex Baboian’s solo notes fell like billowed raindrops on a starry Route 66 drive to unforgettable.  

Manukyan, with brooding jive, ended the set with a thoughtful and bad boy solo that, combined with Grigoryan’s sax, teased a desert rose over the audience’s ears before its crescendo.

The evening concluded with “Yervanti,” resounding in Grigoryan’s solo like the ending to an Armenian fable that doesn’t end happily, but justly and with a wry toast.

Here’s wishing Grigoryan and Manukyan a safe journey back to Yerevan this week, with the hope that they’ll return to charm jazz audiences in Boston again soon.

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