Grooves for Odd Times (independent, 2012)
River Guerguerian is another name to add to the list of master percussionists. His album Grooves for Odd Times is a superb presentation of global percussion. The album begins with ‘Boulevard,’ a piece in 32 & 12 beat cycles where frame drums and vibraphone play a leading role.
As the name implies ‘Twenty Three Beats’ is in a 23 beat cycle, subdivided 5+6+6+6. Violinist Duncan Wickel joins Guerguerian on the 30 beat ‘She Walked In’ interacting with Guerguerian’s frame drums and other percussion instruments. ‘Seven Tambourines’ takes a middle Eastern fusion turn with the addition of electric oud and 14 beat cycle.
‘Gong Lab’ is a 9 beat cycle piece with a dreamlike Southeast Asian feel, featuring 9 gongs, cymbals and drumkit. The leading frame drums return as a drum set on the freeform ‘Odd Reflection.’
‘Seventeen Eights’ (17 beat cycle) is a downtempo percussive track. It’s followed by ‘Overture Six,’ a 6 beat cycle piece that mixes didgeridoo, electronic ambiance and percussion.
The electric bass takes over on the 4 beat cycle ‘Mud People,’ another piece with a Middle Eastern essence featuring electric oud and frame drums. ‘Ten for You’ introduces piano and percussion with Turkish cumbus. The album ends with the 9 beat trance-like piece titled ‘Overture,’ which combines electronics, frame drums and singing bowls.
“The inspiration for ‘Grooves for Odd Times’ was to create a sonic palette in the same way a painter might approach canvas,” River explains. “The album’s roots are heavy grooves mixed in with the lyrical side of percussion. There is a dance in the odd time rhythmic structures.”
Born in Canada of Armenian-Egyptian origin, River’s career started at an early age. In 1989, he received his Bachelor of Music from the Manhattan School of Music Conservatory and graduated with the school’s award for Most Outstanding Percussionist.
In 1994, River sold all his possessions, left civilization for five years, and lived in a wildlife sanctuary in the Himalayas. River continued his investigations into trance-inducing instrumentation as he traveled to different cultures learning unique methods and techniques.
Drawing on this diverse background, River plays all genres of music pulling original sound from frame drums, Middle Eastern and Afro-Cuban percussion, drumset, marimba, tabla, kanjira, cajon, gongs, singing bowls, loopers, and various found objects.
Guerguerian has performed and recorded with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Tan Dun, Tibetan Singing Bowl Ensemble, Paul Winter Consort, Chuck Berry, Sophie B. Hawkins, The Billy Sea and Ziggy Marley/Gipsy Kings. He also co-founded the world jazz group Free Planet Radio and Talujon Percussion Ensemble.
As a studio musician, he has recorded on over 150 albums and film soundtracks, including the John Cage documentary film, “I Have Nothing to Say and I Am Saying It”.
A respected music educator, River is Music Director for Odyssey Community School’s Creative Technology & Arts Center. He conducts “rhythm and sound exploration” workshops, and enjoys teaching privately.
Since 1999, River has been living in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina with his wife and three daughters. He travels internationally with Turkish master musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek.
“Try to listen to the music with your whole body and not just your mind. There is a message in the sound.”
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.