This Boiler House Jazz Series at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation takes place in the Museum's Main Gallery, the former Boiler House of the Boston Manufacturing Company at the Francis Cabot Lowell Mill complex on the left bank of the Charles River in the heart of downtown Waltham, Massachusetts.
Ancient melodies, new arrangements. Traditional instruments, modern harmonies. Tension and peacefulness. Angst and celebration.
The group has performed widely in the Boston area, with additional appearances in New York, Washington, Zurich, and Milano.
Musaner has been featured on radio programs in New York City, Boston, Armenia, Lebanon, and France.
“It’s about what you inherit,” declares Ara Sarkissian, the composer and classical pianist behind modern
Armenian fusion experiment Musaner. The group has plunged into the caves of tradition to rescue melodies once left for dead and renew them in the airy architecture of the halls of modern jazz.
On Musaner’s sophomore release, Once Upon a Time (release: October 26, 2012), the polished folk-fusion ensemble plucks stories and spins them into musical gold. From sweeping mountaintop vistas to intimate nights around the fire, Musaner takes the listener on an hour-long journey through the sonic landscape of old Armenia.
Though Musaner’s sophisticated performances reflect the discipline of conservatory-trained jazz artists, Sarkissian’s compositions begin with strands of tradition. Once Upon a Time features the ensemble’s organic intermingling of jazz structure and folk improvisation, but at its heart are the ballads and social music of Armenian folk life. “I think it’s about surface, what’s at the top, brewing,” expounds Sarkissian. “Every phrase there on the surface will help the narrative move along.”
In Musaner’s hands, hazy folk tunes gain a vigorous new life through modern jazz orchestration. On the title track, Sarkissian’s atmospheric piano draws the listener through a veil of clouds to find, perched atop a mountain crag in the harsh Armenian interior, a bird with a broken wing. Saxophones soar, a duduk rises, and Musaner battles to give the bird flight.
Ensemble founder Sarkissian, of Armenian heritage, was born in Cyprus and grew up in Beirut. In 1989, the young piano prodigy moved to Boston, where he honed his craft at some of the world’s top schools of music. He composed and performed, pushing at his own boundaries to try to bring the folk music of his ancestors to a modern stage. Eventually, he realized, “No one really teaches you all of this stuff I was looking for. You have to just have it. I don’t know if I have it, but I’m trying to search for it.”
Sarkissian needed the Muses – in Armenian, musaner.
Every member of the ensemble comes to Armenian folk-jazz fusion from somewhere else, and their collaboration has produced a style that engages diverse genres while respecting the music’s folk roots. “So many old songs are gone, lost in a sense,” Sarkissian reflects, nostalgic but optimistic. This experiment, he hopes, will reinvigorate the tradition by making it both interesting and meaningful.
Doors open at 7:00pm and the show begins at approximately 7:30pm. Arrive early and enjoy a self-guided tour of the museum!
Beverages are included in the ticket price, non-alcoholic for everyone, and beer & wine to those 21+.
To learn more about Musaner and Ara Sarkissian, please visit their website.