LOS ANGELES—Jazz piano prodigy Tigran Hamasyan will perform a rare Los Angeles area concert on January 15 at The Edye at The Broad Stage, 1310 11th Street in Santa Monica, CA 90401. He will do two solo sets, at 7:30pm and 9:30pm. Tickets are $22 and are available at http://thebroadstage.com/Tigran.
Called “Amazing” by no less a jazz piano authority than Herbie Hancock, at 19 Tigran won the prestigious Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition and was recently signed to Universal Music France. This show will be the first in a long tour to support his album A Fable set for release in February 2011.
In its ever-evolving state, jazz invites into its fold imaginative artists who freely and courageously pursue their own vision, not only built on tradition but also infused with their own personality and passion. In the case of pianist/keyboardist Tigran Hamasyan, potent jazz improvisation fuses with the rich folkloric music of his native Armenia. The result? Tigran’s fresh sound is marked by an exploration of time signatures beyond 4/4 into 5/4 and 9/8, charged dynamics, the shifting between acoustic and electric modes of expression, and the use of exotic instrumentation including duduk, shvi and zurna.
“When I was 13, I began to understand the rich culture of Armenia,” says Tigran. “I thought, ‘it’s in my blood.’ I grew up with this incredible music without realizing it. Slowly I began to listen more to the folk music, and it shocked me how much it had been completely ignored. The more tunes I learned—listening to recordings from the Armenian Folk Radio channel—the more I saw the rich potential for merging those with improvised music. That started me on a lifetime journey.”
Born in Gyumri, Armenia, in 1987, Tigran grew up in a household that was full of music—his father more of a rock fan while his uncle was a huge jazz buff. When he was just a toddler, he gravitated to tape players and the piano instead of toys, and by the time he was 3, he was working his way through figuring out songs on piano by the Beatles, Louis Armstrong, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Queen. Early on his jazz tastes were informed by Miles Davis’s fusion period, and at 10, when his family moved to Yerevan, he came to discover the classic jazz songbook under the aegis of his teacher Vahag Hayrapetyan, who had studied with Barry Harris. “That’s when I understood what jazz is,” Tigran says. “He taught me about bebop. He was a great teacher who still lives in Armenia.”
While he studied classical music at an Armenian high school geared toward music studies, Tigran continued to grow on his own as a jazz pianist. He performed at the First International Jazz Festival in Yerevan in 1998, which opened up other performance opportunities, and returned to the festival for its second edition in 2000, where he met Chick Corea, Avishai Cohen, Jeff Ballard and more. He was also booked to play several European festivals where he met such top-notch jazz stars as Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul, Danilo Perez and John Patitucci, among others. Beginning in 2002, Tigran began to win a series of piano competitions including, in 2006, both the top prize at the Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition and second place in the Martial Solal International Jazz Competition in Paris.
At 16, his parents moved to Los Angeles to give their two children (Tigran’s sister is a painter and sculptor) better artistic opportunities. Tigran was in high school here for only two months before gaining entrance to USC, where he studied for two years. At the time, he made contact with jazz musicians including Alphonso Johnson and Alan Pasqua, and started gigging with saxophonist Ben Wendel and drummer Nate Wood, who continue to play with him today.
Tigran kept his European connections, recording three albums for the France-based label Plus Loin. In 2008 he moved to New York, where he is now based. Despite touring extensively, he finds time to return to Los Angeles to see his family who live in Venice.
With his prowess established from the Monk competition, his extensive live gigs and his small, but impressive catalog, Tigran’s career has been on an upswing culminating with his recent major label signing. With the release of A Fable and his tour schedule, 2011 will be a milestone year for the young musician starting auspiciously with his show at The Edye at The Broad Stage.