Bay Area Saxophonist Raffi Garabedian Releases New Project “The Crazy Dog” | LISTEN!

Rising Bay Area Saxophonist Raffi Garabedian
Releases New Album The Crazy Dog Today

A series of lustrous chamber jazz compositions drawing inspiration from letters written by his paternal grandparents, who fled the Armenian genocide during World War I, and his father’s historical fiction inspired by the family’s experience settling near Boston

The illustrious cast includes clarinet maestro Ben Goldberg and vocalist Danielle Wertz, a rising star with a crystalline sound

Raffi Garabedian has release the first single, “A Mother’s Letter,” from his forthcoming album The Crazy Dog. Raffi says: “A Mother’s Letter” was the first song I composed for this project. Adapted from a poem my grandmother wrote, the melodic and harmonic structure emotes a somber mood, embodying her painful life growing up as an orphan, fleeing Turkey during the Genocide, and carrying this trauma into a foreign land where she struggled to raise her family. To me, the words reflect her love and distress for my father.

For Berkeley-reared tenor saxophonist Raffi Garabedian music is both a calling and a vehicle for exploring his family’s star-crossed past. A highly regarded improviser who’s performed and recorded with artists such as Brad Mehldau Trio drummer Jorge Rossy, bassist Ben Street, saxophonist Dayna Stephens, and R&B legend Johnny Talbot, Garabedian co-founded the innovative brass band Brass Magic. He is a regular member of the Electric Squeezebox Orchestra and SticklerPhonics with Scott Amendola and Danny Lubin-Laden.

The Crazy Dog, a suite of new music composed and arranged by tenor saxophonist Raffi Garabedian, is both a departure and homecoming for the Bay Area musician. Writing for voice for the first time, Garabedian has sourced the project’s lyrics from his father and grandmother’s writings about their lives in Turkish Armenia and the United States. These now-lyricized writings—from “A Mother’s Letter” (And her feet, the elderly mother / Her feet place at the edge wearing winter on her head) to “March 17, 1927” (I arrived into this world / Kicking and screaming)—tell the family’s story of love, despair, displacement, survival, and resilience as they are violently uprooted from their home during the 1915 Armenian Genocide, and forced to emigrate to America, a journey that extended into 1921. Working from his grandmother’s poetry and plays, and his father’s short stories and memoir, Garabedian has honed his forebears’ words into an album of narrative poignancy and beauty.

This project is intersectional in its language: Garabedian has translated his grandmother’s native Western Armenian, put it into conversation with his father’s English, and adapted both to fit his musical voice through composition and rearrangement of their words to form lyrics. The Crazy Dog is also clearly intergenerational, with Garabedian adding his second-generation American Armenian voice to his family’s in this three-century-spanning project. Through the octet’s lush instrumentation of female voice, flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone, trombone, vibraphone, bass, and drums, Garabedian has produced a sonic means of conveying his deep connectedness to his family’s experiences, interpreted through his own musical lens and artistry.

Photo Credit: Lenny Gonzalez


1. The Armenian Question

2. A Mother’s Letter

3. Escape to Erzurum

4. The Closet Playwright

5. Three Gold Liras

6. Ten Acres

7. First Trip to Fresno (1931)

8. March 17, 1927

9. March 18, 2020

10. Contrapuntal Bewilderment



Raffi Garabedian – Tenor Saxophone, Voice on “Three Gold Liras”

Danielle Wertz – Voice

Jonathan Beshay – Flute, Tenor Saxophone

Ben Goldberg – Clarinet

Danny Lubin-Laden – Trombone

Dierk Peters – Vibraphone, Glockenspiel

Rashaan Carter – Electric Bass

Sean Mullins – Drums, Percussion

Composed & arranged by Raffi Garabedian

Text by Peter Garabedian, except “A Mother’s Letter” by Yevnige Garabedian

Recorded by David Pollock at The Bunker Studio, Brooklyn, NY

December 15 & 16, 2022


Produced by Ari Chersky

Mixed & Mastered by David Pollock





Clandestine Label Services

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