Musical Performance: Jazz Meets The Near East Festival: Souren Baronian and "Taksim"

Sat, May 30, 2009 9:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Souren Baronian, clarinet
Haig Manoukian, 'oud
Lee Baronian, doumbek
Mal Stein, drums
Danny Zanker, bass

Tickets: $15 available at door or online here:

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What happens when a vibrant musical tradition from another part of the world meets the swing of American Jazz? Sometimes a new musical language is born that has special powers of its own. Such is the exciting music of the quintet called Taksim, the only group now playing a form of jazz that's driven both by Armenian tradition and by the heritage of Charlie Parker and Lester Young, with a taste of Arabic in the mix.

Taksim, meaning improvisation in the Middle East, was created by multi-woodwind player and percussionist Souren Baronian. Taksim’s sound is a hybrid of Baronian’s ethnic Armenian heritage and the jazz idioms of his New York upbringing. Taksim fuses traditional instruments such as oud, kaval, dudook, G-clarinet, doumbek and Middle Eastern rhythms with the jazz vocabulary and bebop sensibility which surrounded Souren Baronian as he grew up in Spanish Harlem. Based in New York City, Taksim has performed in most of the city’s major jazz clubs, as well as in Europe and at the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Jazz Festival.

What the criics have said:

"The range of sounds and rhythms explored by Taksim in a single number was astonishing. Taksim's dazzling display of shifting time signatures and seamless eclecticism blended with wry humor and entrancing intensity made each number a distinct adventure." - Downbeat

"A new form of jazz that is exotic yet accessible and, above all, exciting." - Boston Herald Americana


Souren Baronian, reedman/percussionist extraordinaire, is the Prez of Armenian-American musicians. His playing and his writing are a true synthesis of jazz and authentic Near Eastern music, born of his extensive experience in both areas. On the ethnic side, he trained with the renowned Turkish master Safet Gundeger, and on the jazz side with the legendary Lennie Tristano. He recorded with such jazz lights as Phil Woods, Don Jerry, Joe Beck, Arnie Lawrence, Carla Bley, Paul Motian, Joe Farrel, Steve Gadd, Armen Donelian and others, while continuing to lead ethnic ensembles in performance and on recordings. In 1975 Souren assembled a quintet of kindred spirits capable of pusuing his musical vision, and named this group "Taksim," a word which in the Near East refers to improvised melodic exploration. Before long Souren and his band were surprising audiences regularly at important jazz venues in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, and earning a glowing review from Downbeat Magazine. They are now enjoying their third decade of critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.

Oudist Haig Manoukian celebrates the musical traditions of the Middle East, India and Africa in improvisations that combine control of classical form and modern sensibility. His current collaborations with the groups Alba, Orchestra Kef, and Sounds of Taraab express his love for the rhythms and modal structures of Andalusia, Turkey, and East Africa. In addition, Haig is active with Taksim, a Middle-Eastern jazz fusion band, and Transition, an ensemble that regularly performs Armenian, Arab, and Turkish music. For many years, he has taught and performed at Balkan and Middle Eastern camps throughout the United States.

Lee Baronian is Souren's son; he could have had no better grounding for the masterful technique and musical awareness he brings to the dumbek and other percussion instruments. He has a virtuosic young group of his own called Charged Particles, the next chapter in the meeting of East and West.

Mal Stein has mastered the complexities of compound meters like no other drummer; his command of that specialty defines the state of the art today. He grew up in the company of jazz greats, his father Richard having been himself both a drummer and a jazz-club entrepreneur. When not powering up Taksim, Mal is very active on the New York musical scene.

Danny Zanker

Bassist Danny Zanker's innovative and exciting playing style features elements of jazz, blues, Middle Eastern, heavy metal, funk and avant garde. Danny is also an accomplished and prolific composer, with his compositions representing a natural extension of his concepts on the bass: complex yet danceable rhythms, lyricism and lots of emotional intensity. He currently can be heard leading his quartet, “Anti-Elevator Mission”, at Smalls and Tagine. His playing is also prominently featured in Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra, the George Dulin Disband, the Yutaka Uchida Group, Souren Baronian’s Taksim, and Shusmo at venues which include the Knitting Factory, Makor, Joe’s Pub, Cornelia St. Cafe, and the BAM Cafe.

Tickets: $15, available at the door and online below:

Last updated: 2009-05-27 10:40:19

Souren Baronian
Souren Baronian

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