Arguably, Michael Sarian is the most talented trumpet player you probably haven’t heard yet. The trumpeter and bandleader was born in Argentina, but has relocated to New York City. “León” is Sarian’s third album with his septet, The Chabones.
Critical acclaim for Sarian’s work typically remarks on his style, how there is a rock sensibility that undergirds the songs, and so forth. And a listen to his previous works bear those assertions out. What stands out on “León” is the straightforward way in which the musician communicates with his audiences.
While the music is most important, when getting to know a musician, the liner notes are essential. In the notes for “León,” Sarian explains how he arrived at the title. He also discusses the myths associated with red-haired people – – yes, gingers. Sarian has red hair, which is rare in his native Argentina. He writes: “Albeit mostly playful, there’s a common stigma against gingers…and my home country is no different…they believe gingers are bad luck.”
As a result of the stigma, Sarian wanted to title the album, “Colorado Yeta.” The phrase, “roughly translates into ‘bad luck ginger.'”
Sarian then explains that he didn’t want the recording to have a “defeatist vibe.” So he put a positive spin on being a ginger, and his look overall, and went with a word that means “lion.” He points out though, the term as applied to this recording is not just about looks. The term is for anyone who has ever felt “‘less than’ for any reason, because they too can be a lion. The lion represents anyone who grows into who they are and owns it.”
In the hands of Sarian, a negative ginger myth becomes a reason to celebrate. In six songs, he tells autobiographical stories that help listeners to see why the album’s title means so much to him.
Michael Sarian & The Chabones, “León”
The horns lead and fall back. Percussion that is at turns tribal, then rock-ish set the pace. Even when the horns take over a bit, and play a different motif, the drums shimmer and pound brightly. The emotive quality of the song is found in the horns’ motifs. Gentle background singing gives the piece added nuance. Toward the end of the song, the drums sound more like they belong in a rock song than in jazz. Maybe that is symbolic of a person coming into his or her own.
“Colorado Yeta” by Michael Sarian & The Chabones
The feel is certainly downcast in contrast to the title track. A bluesy undercurrent seems to guide the song. A horn motif in triplets orients listeners to what the brass section is doing. The drums hush and shimmer lightly. The song sounds like introspection, like what it would sound like if the search for one’s place in the world was set to music. The end is abrupt, but the absence of sound is felt more than heard.
On “León,” Sarian plays with his dudes, or chabones, to make autobiographical songs that are interesting to listen to without being too arty or off-putting. The music and his thoughtful liner notes help audiences to see his perspective and make sense of every song.