Arto Tuncboyaciyan,
Every Day is a New Life
(Earth Music, 2000)

I've had this CD waiting for review for a long time. I loved it the moment I first heard it but for some reason, I couldn't find a handle on which to hang a review.

This is an amazing album Arto Tuncboyaciyan (TUNCH boy ah chian) has made with the help of Paul Winter and friends. With this supporting cast, I might make a pretty good album. Besides the man himself on vocals, sazabo (a kind of lute) and duduk (a sort of double-reed flute) and Winter on soprano sax, the all-star cast includes Jim Beard on keyboards and award-winning cellist Eugene Friesen. Austrian Franz Hackl on trumpet is top notch and he probably made the trumpet he's playing as well. American Scottish fiddle champion Hanneke Cassel is here along with Joanie Madden, the current queen of the Irish whistle. Peter Herbert, Austrian bass master, shows off his love of Middle Eastern music. Vardan Grigoryan, frequent collaborator with the Paul Winter Consort, plays duduk on the first cut. Dixon Van Winkle, formerly of the Clams (what can I say, I'm a Karen Carpenter fan) plays tuba on the third and tenth cuts as well as handling all the recording, mixing and mastering. And on cut No. 8, trumpet legend Marvin Stamm joins the group.

The music is wonderful, the musicians first class -- why couldn't I just say that and be done with it? I think that the fact that I broke my wrist in the interim only partly explains why I didn't write the review earlier. I think the review needed to wait until now. This is music we need now.

Arto Tuncboyaciyan brings to Every Day is a New Life a family history of displacement, loss and hardship. Along with others of the Armenian diaspora, he grew up on the outskirts of Istanbul in a small house shared by his parents and a brother and sister. Instead of acting out as so many in those circumstances will, in anger and alienation, Arto turned to music, guided by his older brother, Onno. Pain, sorrow and loneliness are here, along with joy, love and solace.

"I don't give direction to anybody, I let you imagine for yourself but what I try to give you is Love, Respect, Truth. I believe this is the path for trust. Trust is one of the simplest forms of wealth in this world. This is what we need."

Tuncboyaciyan's music, which he calls "avant-garde folk," is definitely folk-derived, it's just jazzed up a little and imbued with a lot of soul. The music evokes emotions in a most unique way. "I Miss You Every Moment My Brother" with only Arto on duduk and Beard on keyboards, is absolutely desolate. I can't listen to it without an ache in my heart.

"Mystical Pine Tree" is perfect. I know pine trees. I know the fragrance of dew evaporating from them in the morning sun. I know the song of the winds in their boughs. Somehow, he makes the sazabos raise that fragrance and sing that song. If you like Bobby McFerrin, you'll like "Baby Elephant," dedicated to Tuncboyaciyan's mother. I imagine young Arto marching along to the music, trumpeting his presence and need for his mother's attention.

At first, I didn't get the vocal numbers. I don't mean that I didn't understand the words -- Armenian and Turkish are not among the languages I speak but even so, one gets a sense of language that was missing here. I took them to my friend Silvette who has a remarkably similar last name and who also spent some growing-up years in Istanbul. She didn't understand the vocals either but, her father having recently died, she loved listening to the music. Then, I heard an Echoes Living Room Concert featuring this CD and learned that this wasn't language, rather it was random syllables.

How else to express in universal terms the range of emotions and passions of a man who has seen it all and written the music?

Buy the CD, it's music for this time.

Forgive me Arto, for taking so long.

[ by J. Higgins-Rosebrook ]
Rambles: 24 November 2001



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