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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at MaineToday.com and a music writer for MaineToday.com and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at Mainetoday.com. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk about...music of course.

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Posted: May 13, 2019

Raffi DerSimonian’s career change reflected in ‘Leap’

Written by: Aimsel Ponti

Raffi DerSimonian Photo by Kyle Dubay

Waterville native and Portland resident Raffi DerSimonian’s decision to leave a steady job to focus on his music career is reflected in the title of his new album, “Leap.”

But the notions behind the album – his third, being released at a party Thursday night in Portland – are more universal. It’s about letting go, taking calculated risks and having faith in one’s own center of gravity, DerSimonian said.

“For me, it was making a huge decision to leap from my full-time position of director of marketing and communication at (Maine College of Art) to pursue my own creative and professional aspirations. It also is a reflection of the importance of keeping art and creative expression alive, despite the gravity of reality and maintaining focus on things that bring joy,” said DerSimonian.

“Leap” opens with the breezy track “Elephant Juice.” Very much tinged with a reggae vibe, it’s a honey-sweet tune. Another, “1,000 Shades,” shines with cello from Hannah Schroeder as DerSimonian contemplates life with harmonies from Emilia Dahlin.

Raffi DerSimonian’s third album, “Leap” Illustration by Abbie Masso, graphic design by Kristen DeVico

There’s a funky bass line from Adam Frederick, and horns from Rustic Overtones members Jason Ward, Lucas Desmond and the late Dave Noyes on the feel-good tune “Next Time,” which also features outstanding lead guitar from Jason Queen. Speaking of Noyes, DerSimonian noted that he played a critical role in the production of the album by writing all the horn sections and performing on some of the songs. “He was an artist I admired greatly and was honored to have had the opportunity to collaborate. Noyes was truly one of the hardest-working and most talented musicians I’ve ever known. His presence will be sorely missed on May 16 (the date of  the release show), and his life and legacy gives a new layer of depth and meaning to the theme of this new album.” A portion of the proceeds from the show will benefit Noyes’ family, as well as Maine Academy of Modern Music.

“Sweet Oblivion” is another terrific “Leap” track with DerSimonian dropping lyrics a mile a minute amid a whirl of horns and cello.

All told, “Leap” features 15 musicians with significant Maine roots; a partial list includes percussionist Chas Lester, pianist Kris Rodgers, and guitarists Justin Lindsay and Jason Queen. The CD can be picked up at the release show, on iTunes and most other major digital outlets, at Bull Moose Music locations or online at DerSimonian.com/Leap.

If you head to the show at Portland House of Music, DerSimonian said you can expect to hear songs from “Leap,”  with a handful of ones from “Mind the Gap,” released in 2003. The night kicks off with a set from the MAMMoth Brass Band, the Maine Academy of Modern Music’s New Orleans-style brass ensemble, followed by a set from singer-songwriter Dahlin, who also will sing harmonies during DerSimonian’s live set. The rest of DerSimonian’s live band is 11 members strong, and includes Lauren Hastings Genova on violin, Adam Miller on bass and sax player Lucas Desmond.

Raffi DerSimonian’s “Leap” Release Show

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Portland House of Music, 25 Temple St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $10 in advance, $15 day of show, 21-plus
TICKETS & INFO: portlandhouseofmusic.com

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