Tigran Hamasyan has been fascinated with music since the age of two. Born in Gyumri (Armenia) in 1987, he caught the jazz bug at age seven and was soon playing piano and experimenting with improvisation. Studying music formally and practicing constantly, Hamasyan also immersed himself in his native land's rich folk music, which he incorporated into his jazz performances. He won prizes in a number of music contests, though his crowning achievement was his first-place award in the 2006 Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition.
Bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Louis Moutin join him for his second CD, where he shows off his tremendous chops without overpowering the listener, as many a young jazz virtuoso has done in the past. He opens the disc with a two-part piecethe thunderous post-bop "Homesick" and the hypnotic title track, the latter building upon a vamp and gradually growing in intensity, using electronic keyboards for color.
By contrast, his "Leaving Paris" is a somber romantic waltz. The traditional Armenian folk song "Aparani Par" celebrates harvest time, wildly alternating between 14/8 and 5/4 time signatures, adding Vardan Grigoryan on duduk and shivi. Hamasyan's loopy, reggae-accented arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Well, You Needn't" is humorous, and he takes quite a few liberties with Miles Davis' "Solar" by altering its rhythmic structure and using its theme as a launching pad for his driving improvisation. The leader introduces his infectious "Gypsyology" on organ before returning to piano, conjuring images of a giant outdoor celebration centered on a circle of dancers.
Hamasyan's ability to blend so many musical influences makes New Era stand out from the flood of new CDs.
Track Listing: Part 1: Homesick; Part 2: New Era; Leaving Paris; Aparani Par (The Dance of Aparan); Well, You Needn't; Memories from Hankavan and Now; Gypsyology; Zada Es; Solar; Forgotten World.
I love jazz because next to my kids, it's the love of my life.
I was first exposed to jazz by Joe Rico from a tiny station in Niagara Falls in 1954 when I was 13.
The best show I ever attended was Maynard Ferguson who blew the roof off Massey Hall in the late 50s.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to everything you can and then listen again.