10 Songs, 46 Minutes

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Ratings and Reviews

5.0 out of 5
3 Ratings

3 Ratings

blogscritic Mark Saleski ,

Sean Noonan, Aram Bajakian - Chips Review in All About Jazz, New York September 2003

Sean Noonan, Aram Bajakian - Chips
Review in All About Jazz, New York September 2003

Matt Rand

CHiPs (as in the ‘80s television series about the California Highway Patrol) gets off to two separate starts. The first track, "CHiPs", is a hyperactive, tongue-in-cheek quickie. Aram Bajakian's guitar is steeped in over-the-top vibrato, and Sean Noonan gives his drums a real punishment. The second track is built on a slowly building repetitive figure. Noonan is subdued in the background, and Bajakian is restrained and thoughtful.

Each of these tracks does what it does, in blissful ignorance of the other, and each is a sign of things to come later on the CD. As the disc goes on, each of the duo's styles, the fast and aggressive approach and the patient and layered approach, develop into fully realized expressions. Maybe it is because the styles are completely at odds with one another that they never meet, and the duo is always doing one or the other.

With the layered approach, Bajakian does his best work. He comes up with haunting, airy textures that he repeats and changes. Sometimes, he loops the patterns and stacks further developments on top of them. His playing is expressive and feels like it could be the soundtrack to a walk through a middle American ghost town, except, notably, in the case of "Karaslama", which is based in Armenian folk music. When Bajakian plays without hurry, Noonan listens carefully. He lets the music speak, coaxing it along with cymbal accents and expansive beats.

And then the two will rock out. Noonan plays better here, technically, but it does not feel as valuable as his slower work. Further, his drumming up a storm and Bajakian's playing with his effects processors adds up to a lot of treble. Fortunately, later in the CD, they are joined on the more aggressive pieces by Dan Magay on alto sax, Thierno Camara on bass and veteran Jim Pugliese on percussion.

With a full band, the music is more sonically balanced, and the wildness of Noonan's and Bajakian's aggressive playing is rooted to a clear center. But when they settle back into patience, the sound of the two alone is what makes the disc worthwhile.

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