Review | Songlines


Rating: ★★★

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Album and Artist Details


AGA Trio


Naxos World


As travel becomes ever more constrained, transborder musical projects continue to flourish although the recent violent flare-up of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, involving Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey doesn’t bode well. But the web of crossings woven by the history and aspirations of the AGA Trio, binding communities in Georgia, Turkey and Armenia, is especially richly patterned. Most listeners will hear echoes of musics from even further afield, notably Bulgaria and Albania. Each member is a trained virtuoso on his instrument – accordion, kaval (flute) and double-reed duduk – and the performances have an academic, somewhat bookish feel without being bloodless or slack. The recording itself, almost clinically precise, suits this approach very well, bringing out every nuance of the delicate ornamentation and phrasing, especially in Deniz Mahir Kartal’s exquisite kaval work.

The music itself tends to the melancholy, inward and stately, even in the more tumultuous dance movements, such as the 6/8 rhythms of the folk-based ‘Tsekva Kartuli’. Clearly, this is not folk music as such, but a set of arrangements by a skilled group of musicians. Listening to Mikail Yakut’s moving accordion melody on ‘Noubar-Noubar’, or Arsen Petrosyan’s intensely focused duduk solo, ‘Siretsi Yars Taran’, it’s easy to imagine yourself in a cool, quiet salon with an audience of connoisseurs, the night drawing on.

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