Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
April 30, 2022 - 11:51am EDT
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The eleven cuts on David Aubaile and Julien Tekeyan’s new album HiMA provide an elasticity that creates an imaginative jazz sound transcended from the colorings of piano, keyboards, drums, percussion and loops. During the course of their collaborative teamwork, they appear courageous, willing to take risks and explore adventurous territory for composition, expression and improvisation.

Too much reliance on loops can have a tendency to downplay melody and emphasize repetition, but Aubaile and Tekeyan are also able to tap into feelings of curiosity, surprise, tension, release and excitement. The word HiMA comes from Armenian meaning “now,” and it’s a reference to their vision of bringing life, universality and immediacy to their improvised instrumental music. The album’s release concert  took place in Paris in April, and I understand that HiMA’s music often unfolds in real-time as a somewhat spontaneous creative experience.

A masterful pianist (and multi-instrumentalist), David Aubaile also composes, arranges and produces music for a variety of projects from stage to studio, musicals to film. He teaches at the Centre d’Informations Musicales (CIM), France’s first school for jazz and modern music. I recall hearing French percussionist Julien Tekeyan with violin virtuoso Khaled, as well as on Zied Zouari’s Maqâm Roads album that fused elements of classical, Arabic and Turkish music.

“Deca Danse” and “Mash Mash” bring here-and-now freshness that is primarily a feature for Tekeyan’s percussion. They establish a solid groove, but I also imagined breezy flute, wailing sax or howling violin as layers that could’ve taken the compositions to new heights. “Tron” is an enchanting showpiece for Aubaile’s synthesizer. Selections like “The Avengers” and “Ballarat” capitalize on both musicians’ intellect, instinct and intuition. For me, the most pleasing and emotional offerings are the three tracks that feature guest artists, Afro-jazz Griot vocalist Kaabi Kouyate, French-Cameroonian actress/singer Sandra Nkake, and French guitarist Yan Péchin. These are the songs “Kobagna,” “Les Tenebres” and “Liquid Granit.” 

Together, Aubaile, Tekeyan and their guests use different sonic colors to produce various feelings. It’s a true smorgasbord of delight …. or as they describe their own music in French, “Déclaration d’amour à la liberté, à l’espace, à la plasticité et au plaisir, véritable épicurisme musical …” which means “a declaration of love of freedom, space, plasticity and pleasure, a true musical epicureanism.”  (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)