Frederick Breedon IV, Getty Images Hank Williams Jr. has revealed his summer…
- Posted on May 27th 2008 12:00PM by Steve Hochman
"The melodies he chooses," narrates Junior, as the grandson is called in this setting, "and Michael's music go together, becomes one piece." The senior artist speaks again, the grandson translating: "Our tastes are becoming the same from experience."
They are about to put this to a new test: Where the recorded work they've done has largely involved separate efforts combined in the studio -- Brook creating soundscape frameworks, Gasparyan adding duduk melodies and then Brook editing the results -- their May 30 concert at UCLA's Royce Hall will be entirely live and in the moment in a way they've never collaborated before.
"With this gig we'll treat it more like a cover band or even a jazz band," says Brook. "We'll use the album as a starting point but not stick to it."
There's a trace of nerves in his voice, not surprising as at this point they haven't even done any rehearsals. Even in a handful of concerts a decade ago, there was more an attempt to re-create the music from the then-new 'Black Rock,' with some samples and loops as part of the basis. But there's even a greater tone of excitement. He's put together an ensemble designed to take advantage of the unique approach: keyboard player John Giluton, bassist Brett Simons, the single-named percussionist Quinn and violinist Julie Rogers (Brook's wife) leading a string quartet. And joining them will also be Junior, who at 25 has matured under the tutelage of his grandfather to be a budding master of the duduk and its cousin the mey himself.
"It could be great," says Brook, perhaps modestly.
The concert's approach seems a natural outgrowth of 'Penumbra,' which will be available for sale at the concert and then later this summer via Brook's Web site. Brook's settings -- his distinctly virtuosic electric guitar textures and both electronic and acoustic atmospheres (with strings and horns in some places) -- and Gasparyan's nonpareil mastery of the duduk's richly emotional expressive range blend on these tracks with remarkable integration, whether on the opening interpretation of Italian Baroque composer Tomaso Albinoni's 'Adagio in G Minor,' the Armenian-rooted title song or the multicontinental hop of 'Bonined,' with surf-spy guitar licks, garage-rock organ and some horn touches. (Listen to the latter via the MP3 at the end of this piece.) This itself is in some ways a culmination of the work started with 'Black Rock' (a standard-setter for modern-ancient/East-meets-West projects, standing alongside Brook's similar work with Pakistani qawwali giant Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and continued periodically with Gasparyan contributing to such Brook projects as scores for 'Black Hawk Down,' 'An Inconvenient Truth' and other films, as well as for Brook's 2007 'RockPaperScissors' album.
At the same time, they've continued working together in a more traditional form, and in fact on this day Brook is producing a session of the two Gasparyans in duets of mostly traditional Armenian tunes on duduk and mey for an album to be released later this year by the World Village label.
But they've never done anything like the planned concert, and the prospect of going truly in the moment onstage is exciting to all of them -- no less for Gasparyan, who has no lack of momentous occasions in his life, as he recounts during a recording break: His first performance in the Kremlin in 1947, after which Stalin gave him a watch -- which he sold to help support his family, not knowing the real value of the timepiece; his first trip to the U.S. in 1956 as part of a large troupe of Soviet performers for a concert at the Hollywood Bowl presented by impresario Sol Hurok. There have also been dozens of awards and honors, including a 2007 world music Grammy for "Endless Vision," a unique collaboration with Persian composer-musician Hossein Alizadeh, along with teaming with artists ranging from Sting and Peter Gabriel to Lionel Richie.
Clearly, new experiences are not daunting to him. "It makes you want to live more," says Gasparyan. "Age doesn't matter."
Brook says, with a sense of wonder, "It's inspiring me." Continues Gasparyan, "In this life, nothing is yours. Only your name. Yesterday's life is my past. Today is a gift from God. Tomorrow is a question mark."
Listen to the song!