We are in Foundry 616 on Valentine’s Day and being serenaded by the ZELA MARGOSSIAN QUINTET with its heady mix of jazz, classical and Armenian influences. Drums and percussion are duelling away. The tenor sax is wailing like a snake charmer, the double bass drives the jazz rhythms and Zela’s piano permeates the room with passion.    

Zela was born in Beirut of Armenian heritage, studied classical piano and then made her way to Sydney and became immersed in jazz. These diverse influences meld together seamlessly as the band played a mixture of original compositions, and covers of some classical Armenian pieces.

The band opened with a bright and punchy original composition, Aleeq, followed by Dreams by Arno Babajanian. Arno was a classical composer & pianist from Armenia who studied in Russia and played throughout the Soviet Union and Europe  late in the last century. He took Armenian folk tunes and moulded them into classical pieces.

Zela brings another level of complexity by adding jazz rhythms and syncopation to make some very enjoyable and innovative music. The first set included three songs, played as one piece, from their album, Transition. Triptych starts with Katil, which translates as drop and is about the loss of a love, perhaps not ideal for Valentine’s Day. The second and third parts are Shounch (Breath/Inhale) and Artashounch (Exhale). The musicians captured the melancholic air and the swirling and spiralling emotions of the themes in this piece.

The second set opened with Transition, a song that featured an amazing double bass solo. The Middle Eastern sounds washed over the audience from Elsen Price’s embodied performance. The second set included The Child in Me based on Armenian folk songs and the dreamy and mellow Lullaby.

Zela wrote Doumé for her percussionist Adem Yilmaz. He used various instruments throughout the night and in Doumé he played an impressive solo on a cajon (a box shaped instrument you sit on and slap with your hands). Some other highlights of the night were Elsen Price’s mournful bass bowing, Alexander Inman-Hislop’s brush work on the drums and Stuart Vandegraaff’s melodious and swirling sax and clarinet playing. The evening finished with the joyous and heraldic Ceasefire, Zela’s song that has made it on Spotify’s State of Jazz list.

The ZELA MARGOSSIAN QUINTET played at Foundry 616, the delightful jazz venue at 616 Harris St, Ultimo.