After a little reflection from the Hrant Dink assassination, a very quick extended weekend trip to Europe (Milan, Courmayeur, Geneva, and Prague) to finish production on my next Pomegranate Music CD release by the great Italian virtuosos of the guitar, Lorenzo Micheli and Matteo Mela (SoloDuo), and working feverishly on the YerazArt 2007 Spring Tour of the U.S., I am back in blogging mode. I like to take extended breaks, instead of blogging periodically in a consistent fashion. If I have nothing to say, I just won't anymore. Although I am not sure if I have anything to say right now. I'll let you decide.
These days, my full attention is the YerazArt tour this spring. As of now, we have Boston, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Houston, Austin, San Francisco, San Jose, Fresno, and maybe the Los Angeles area in the mix. More details to come forth as we confirm 100% with each host organization or city. However, I can tell you that the tour will begin on April 27, 2007 in Boston and end on May 13, 2007 in the West Coast somewhere. For many of our YerazArt Music Scholars, this will be their first time in the U.S and it's always pretty neat to see the expressions. This time around, we are bringing our Armenia Country Director of YerazArt, Arman Padaryan and accomplished pianist Anahit Nercessyan as the musical director with us. I will be overseeing the tour and will be with the group at all times. Being on tour is probably one of the most demanding things of this job, as I was able to witness traveling with the YerazArt in Spring 2006, as well as my tours with guitarist Iakovos Kolanian. Yet, it is also some of the most rewarding experiences as well. This is the time of year when I usually work 7 days a week for about three months straight.
The quick Pomegranate business trip to Europe went well as I was able to focus on the photo shoots with Arsineh Khachikian for Lorenzo and Matteo during the day while doing YerazArt work online at night. I started in Milan and went to the Italian ski village of Courmayeur to Lorenzo's family villa right on the French (those baguette eating bastards! :))) starting right at Mount Blanc. Off to Geneva to do the actual photo shoots in two days, with a quick stopver in Prague and then back home. Between both jobs, I was able to put in about 16 hours a day. However, I found the experience productive. With the SoloDuo, I fully step out of the "Armenian Record Label" shadow and into the general music world. It wasn't supposed to happen like this, as I was originally focused on presenting music from Armenia. However, declining music sales, and expensive CD productions finally forced me to think outside the box. Just releasing Armenian music was not going to justify the time I was putting into each project. Pomegranate works at a notoriously slow and meticulous pace crafting each aspect of our creative output, aside from the music the artists have entrusted us to present.
The cool part is that Lorenzo and Matteo actually came to Pomegranate at the GFA convention in 2006 and asked us to produce their debut album. Thanks to the prior work of Arsineh Khachikian and Kevork Imirzian, as well as those who worked on the nine previous Pomegranate releases, I was happy to do something different. With SoloDuo, I get to work with artists that are fairly well known in the classical guitar world, and especially in Italy, where they are considered the "Prince of the Guitars". Lorenzo and Matteo have recorded together under their own names, however, the new album "Solaria" on Pomegranate will be their first branded album.
Jumping away from Armenian music was tough at first, because that is my first love. But, I do have a fairly decent working knowledge of classical and world music to make move to other artists. Look for a new direction with the label, with the occaisional Armenian artist now and again. Right now, I haven't been able to connect with any artists in Armenia that I feel are marketable or mature enough to move forward into the world scene. There are a few that are either over the hill and too stubborn, or just too green and not yet ready for prime time. I had a professional disagreement with a well known female artist in Armenia who just defies believability with regards to ethics. So, I had to abandon that long pursuit of getting her on the international scene.
Lastly, I have made the choice to stop presenting my own artists in concert in order to concentrate on making records. The concert promotion stuff I will focus on in the YerazArt realm, where the challenge is greater and the stakes much higher and rewarding. I guess I'm kinda burned out with Armenian artists (non-YerazArt) for now.
Right now, I truly enjoy working with the young Armenian kids who have little or no commerical aspirations other than to just play and enjoy, without the pressure to "make as much money as possible" at the expense of their dignity.
Speaking of dignity, with "Solaria" by SoloDuo, this marks the 10th Pomegranate Music album since we released "Yeraz" by Gor Mkhitarian in November 2001. I'd like to publicly thank my friend and colleague Arsineh Khachikian for being the creative design force on each album we have released, and for designing the logo. She made the move to Armenia in 2006 after a long planning period and has opened up a fantastic company with Raffi Niziblian called Deem Communications. Good work, Ars. They are currently working with Matteo and Lorenzo to bring them to Armenia for a multi-city there. One of the things I want to work on is getting star musicians into Armenia and thus expanding the mutual "wow" factor on both sides.
Photo Credit: Arsineh Khachikian
Note: From the SoloDuo "Solaria" Sessions. Featuring Matteo Mela and Lorenzo Micheli. The above photo was taken in a tunnel into the a cloister courtyar in Aosta, Italy. While this is one of my favorite Khachikian photos of SoloDuo, we decided to leave this one on the cutting room floor since it didn't fit into the concept of the album design. It will probably be used in promotional material such as posters or postcards. The idea of the album was to create a "rock and roll" feel in the album style going totally against grain in the classical guitar field. We want to turn the typical classical guitar album image in its head, and create a totally unique product. Let's see how it goes. Album available on March 23, 2007. The SoloDuo Canadian tour is outlined on their MySpace Page. Stops will include Toronto, Quebec, and Montreal. I will be at the Friday Monreal show on March 30 to present the CD to the public with a wine reception after the show. HERE is their MySpace page.
SoloDuo have appeared as Lorenzo Micheli and Matteo Mela on the Naxos and Stradivarious record labels. They were previously photographed by world renowned artist Roberto Masotti. Lorenzo Micheli will be featured in Amadeus Magazine in Italy with 80,000 in circulation. SoloDuo were recently featured in a photograph in the New York Times in January 2007.