Notes From Hairenik
May 2, 2009
I just returned from the Ulikhanyan Club, which is at the moment arguably the most serious venue to hear jazz in Yerevan. I received word this afternoon that the jazz group Nooz was making another appearance there, the same location where I first heard them about two months ago.

Nooz was formed by trombonist David Minasian, whom I first met and heard in 2002 during my first long-term stay in Armenia. We would meet and listen to jazz recordings on occasion. At the time David was leaving the Armenian Navy Band and was about to work on some solo projects. Some time later he decided to quit his instrument and stopped playing for three years before the music called him back to performing once again. But it didn’t come without serious effort, as musicians playing brass instruments who take an indefinite break from their music have an extremely difficult time in relearning how to play, since most of the technique stems from the embouchure.

Nooz has been around for several years and in various incarnations. Although he tries to keep the lineup consistent David often finds himself relying on a different drummer for every gig he plays. This evening a vibrant, versatile drummer by the name of Pereh Nahapetyan provided the beat. He was a bit heavy handed times but he nevertheless was very impressive, consistently keeping the band tight.

I asked what the meaning of “Nooz” was, thinking it was some kind of Armenian conversational jargon that I had not heard before. “The band was originally called Zoo, but when the saxophonist left for France everything turned around, so I renamed the band Nooz,” David explained. The reasoning made perfect sense to me, anyway.

Admittedly I was never drawn to the trombone as a solo instrument in all the years of listening to jazz—adding up to about 20. Yet when I first heard David several years ago the improvised melodies that transmitted from his instrument immediately grabbed me, demanding that I understand something from the music, that I hear it. His playing style is something that is identifiable by me because it simply sounds right, as if the trombone is being played the only way it should be. Perhaps it’s better to hear him in concert to have a better grasp of what I mean.

David is accompanied by Tigran Suchian on trumpet and flugelhorn. He plays in other jazz groups as well, notably Vahakn Hayrabedyan’s Katuner and the Armenian Navy Band. Tigran is undoubtedly the best jazz trumpeter I have heard playing in Yerevan. I have seen him perform countless times and he has always impressed me, especially while playing the flugelhorn, a hauntingly beautiful but often misunderstood instrument.

Artyom Manukyan is one of the few musicians (or rather, the only one I know) who plays the cello in place of the double bass. He is an extremely talented, skilled performer, and it is always a delight to watch him on stage. It’s amazing how flexible the cello can be as it seamlessly crosses genres of music. Artyom also plays electric bass with Katuner.

David verified that about 80 percent of the tunes performed are originals. The last song he played in the set was by Duke Ellington, the others I remembered from the previous gig I attended. Nooz plays in a style that perhaps would best be described as hard bop, although it’s hard to categorize jazz no matter whether it’s played with acoustic or electric instruments. I never paid much attention to categories quite honestly. Regardless, the music must be heard by any fan of jazz or even by those who want to become familiar with it. The news starts but certainly never ends with Nooz.

Nooz can be heard at Stop club on Moscovyan Street on May 2 and once again at Ulikhanyan Club on May 15.

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