Celtic Connections review: Tigran Hamasyan with Arve Henriksen, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Armenian jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan
Armenian jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan
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HOW many voices – vocal or instrumental – can a pianist and a trumpeter muster between them? When it comes to the Armenian jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan and Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen, there is no clear-cut answer.

Tigran Hamasyan with Arve Henriksen, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****

Hamasyan frequently vocalised gently, or with percussive sibilance, over his stately solo keyboard improvisations, habitually starting with a steadily tolling left hand before developing into lyrically contemplative or vigorously animated excursions. The Norwegian’s trumpet tone could be flute-like, possessed of the melancholy voice of an Armenian duduk or belling a big, cold blast from the tundra over occasionally crackly electronic effects. Vocally, he intoned child-like nursery rhyme chants, whale-like hoots and rumbles, or hollered urgently in the style of Sami joiking.

The pair conjured up a sort of deep-forest nocturne – eloquent, incantatory and elemental. Henriksen not only delivered some growly overtone singing but urged the audience to contribute harmonies of their own, as Hamasyan drummed on damped piano strings, while a delicate folk-song-based encore could almost have been one of Greig’s lyric pieces.

There were electronic echoes a-plenty also in the opening set from Co Down singer and harpist Brona McVittie, accompanied by Jack Hayter on steel guitar and Anne Garner on concert flute and support vocals. McVittie’s ethereal singing embraced traditional material such as The Flower of Magherally as comfortably as a Prince number, while a Yeats-inspired sound picture generated much Celtic mist along with those digital echoes. - JIM GILCHRIST