Although his US-based label Pomegranate Music bills this debut album by the young duduk master Petrosyan as "world fusion", the music sounds as ancient as the 1500-year lineage of the instrument he plays. The duduk — a double-reed flute capable of deep emotional expression in the right hands —is here front and center on a too-short album (just 29 minutes) of folk tunes, many of which have long gone unheard.
The aching and minimalist "Havik" here was written over 1000 years ago, but Petrosyan makes it as relevant as any holy, meditative music out of today's ECM jazz label. Petrosyan, barely into his 20s, unearthed most of these spare, melancholy songs and—with discreet accompaniment from harp, acoustic guitar and gentle percussion—explores their heartfelt nature with elegant restraint and empathy.
On the captivating and contemporary centerpiece "Lullaby for the Sun," he brings a yearning quality as the melody alludes to Central Asia as much as to region of its origins. With the exception of the increasingly lively ensemble piece "Javakhki Shoror" and the romantic "Kessabi Oror," there is an ineffable sadness at the heart of many of these pieces. But with unhurried consideration Petrosyan allows the unspoken stories to come through.
Arsen Petrosyan is already acknowledged as prodigy in Armenia. Here is the soulful evidence why we should accord him similar respect.