Quartet Language: Armen Donelian
Armen Donelian – piano/composer
Thomas Chapin – alto saxophone
Calvin Hill – bass
Jeff Williams – drums
1. Jabberwackey
2. The Germ
3. Mexico
4. Loose as a Goose
5. Brood Mood
Dedicated to the late Thomas Chapin, Quartet Language presents Donelian's two-night stand at New York's Visiones in May 1992 as it happened, with only minor editing for sequencing and track length. Available now for the first time, this recording is one of the only live documents of both Chapin's sideman work during his prime and the pianist/composer the All Music Guide called "a superb artisan."

"I was engaged by Thomas's sound, spirit, musical imagination, technical facility and mastery of the jazz language. In him, I found a willing partner to explore a higher level of musical artistry." – Armen Donelian, from the liner notes

Recorded live to two-track DAT by noted engineer David Baker.

Donelian's originals give the band a lot to work with, and Chapin makes the most of it, demonstrating why he is so sorely missed from the scene. Stalwart bassist Calvin Hill and the snappy drummer Jeff William provide deeply supportive rhythm playing. Donelian is a solid player, with a strong left hand and a ceaseless imagination.
— Stuart Kremsky, IAJRC Journal
Top 10 (+1) of 2004
— Alain Drouot, WNUR, Cadence, All Music Guide
These four are in total synch throughout. Though it is easy to focus on Chapin's playing, Donelian's consistently engaging themes and understated piano playing are a significant contribution. Ten years on, and it still sounds fresh and vibrant.
— Michael Rosenstein, Cadence
...hear how a cell motive grows into a line and acquires energy in his long solo on "The Germ" – it's quite an achievement.
— John Litweiler, JazzTimes
Donelian's well-written compositions are the solid basis for Chapin's powerful tour-de-force, revealing again and again his creativity, musical imagination and great spirit. With luck we will have more opportunities to hear Donelian alongside such strong characters as Chapin...
— Eyal Hareuveni, The Squid's Ear
Every one of the 5 tracks is over 10 minutes long, leaving plenty of room for the front line to dig into the pianist's rich melodies and interact with the strong rhythm section of bassist Calvin Hill and drummer Jeff Williams. It's a bittersweet pleasure to hear Chapin – his long, loping solos twist and turn, fly over the beat, head for the stars and glide back to reality. The fact that one can't ever see him make his magic again makes this CD all the more poignant.
— Richard Kamins, Hartford Courant
Quartet Language is as much about history as it is about living in the moment. The real strengths of this record are Donelian's diverse compositions and Chapin's talent for extracting the most from every phrase. Mark Armen Donelian on your list of musicians to watch, and rejoice at another opportunity to hear Thomas Chapin do his thing.
— Nils Jacobson, AllAboutJazz
The relatively conservative setting for Chapin makes this a fairly accessible outing and an excellent example of his playing in modern mainstream jazz. Donelian's songs are excellent, particularly 'Jabberwackey' (which alternates between 7/4 and 4/4 time), the bolero 'Mexico,' and the passionate jazz waltz 'Loose as a Goose,' and the interplay by the trio is stimulating and subtle. It is well worth several listens.
— Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
...intricately composed and expansively improvised music...at once bravely adventurous and breathlessly delicate...
— Celeste Sunderland, AllAboutJazz-New York
A very special live concert indeed, as modern jazz pianist Armen Donelian led his quartet thru a series of truly motivating pieces, consisting of harmonious themes and seething exchanges. Donelian is a master at redefining previously stated themes, whereas the rhythm section gets the job done in near effortless fashion. A masterpiece!
— Glenn Astarita, JazzReview.com
As a pianist, Donelian is chameleonic, funky and Monk-y on 'Jabberwackey', and deeply emotional on the slow, Hadenesque bolero, 'Mexico'; indeed, his compositions are where he really shines. But it's Chapin who keeps your attention and keeps you listening. You move a little closer to the speakers every time he's on.
— John Chacona, One Final Note
Recorded when Chapin was at his peak (just after Anima and Third Force, possibly the last great statements of the declining Downtown scene), Chapin's Dolphyesque alto bristles with the electricity lacking on later more self-consciously mainstream outings...[he] is simply breathtaking. Quartet Language leapfrogs its way up the list of essential recorded documents of this justly celebrated saxophonist and should never have gone almost twelve years unreleased – top marks to small independent label Playscape for giving it a home.
— Fred Grand, Jazz Review (U.K.)
The record is absolutely gorgeous. Sit and listen to four men playing their hearts out, to and for each other, for as with all improvisatory ventures there is more listening involved than showing off. The songs will lift your spirits, dazzle you with speed and volume, choruses will come and go as you sing along, there will be moments of beauty, and moments when you can just feel how much fun they're having.
— Scott Cheshire, Northeast Performer
Completely stunning.
— Bruce Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
Recommended New Release
— AllAboutJazz-New York (January 2004)