6 February 2015
"John Berberian" is considered to be one of the finest Oud virtuosos in the world. Originally he studied classical violin at the edge of 9 and performed for for three consecutive years in symphony orchestras throughout New York.
At 15 John took up the Oud and although he has been playing it for only seen years, his knowledge and technique on this instruments are unbelievable.
John has performed with the finest Armenian ensembles in New York, Detroit, Boston, and other cities.
For "Expressions East" album ("Mainstream Records S/6023"), John organized the finest musicians in the city. Each one is a literate exponent of music of Armenian, Turkish, and Arabic idioms.
They played and rehearsed together for two months before they even entered the recording studio. Their repertoire is an imaginative cross-section of oriental melodies and intricate rhythms that are performed flawlessly.
"Siseler" is a Turkish song played in a 4/4 tempo featuring the voice of "Bob Tashjian", "Laz" is an instrumental of Turkish derivation. Here the ensemble performs in a breathtaking 7/8 tempo. The Armenians are represented with the selections "Nubar Nubar", and "Dzage Bunch": both tunes are performed in a 6/8 ("Nubar Nubar" is enriched by a haunting vamp on the Oud played by "John Berberian" at the beginning and the end while the recorder (or as John calls it the Dundoog) distinguishes "Dzage Bünch".
"Arabaya" and "Basha Bella" are both Turkish and the virtuoso performances on both these selections are proof of the many exhausting hours of rehearsal that the ensemble put in.
"Whyek" is the only Arabic selection in the album and once again "Bob Tashjian" proves his artistry as a vocalist. The concluding piece is a tour de force by "John Berberian". It is a "Taksim", an Oud improvisation in which John affords his listener his brilliant technique, creative mind and through knowledge of the structure of music based on ancient modes.
There is a definitive pattern to the improvisation, John starts and finishes on the same note and mode and it is usually performed in three parts.
This album not only mirrors the culture and advanced rhythms of music of the Middle East. It also allows us to hear the consummate talents of "John Berberian".