Thursday, August 13, 2009
Although it can be safely said that I have never been a serious jazz fan, a step in that direction was taken due to the week’s musical activities in Yerevan. Several days ago, Gyrumi-born jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan, now living in New York but in Yerevan for several concerts, called and said he had written arrangements for Hasmik’s “Butanya Oror” and “Done Yar/Jakhraki Vot,” from Shoghaken’s Music from Armenia CD. The next day, sitting at our piano, he played his arrangements as Hasmik and Aleksan sang these old folk songs to jazz piano accompaniment. Interesting was how the songs were sung in their original version and style, with Hamasyan accompanying with his quite good improvisations. Later, at the Malkhas Jazz Club on Pushkin Street, rehearsals continued, now also with duduk, drums, and other instruments, all for the open-air concert at the Kino Moskva amphitheater, planned for Thursday.
I had heard that jazz guitarist Stanly Jordan had been invited by the American Embassy for a concert at the Opera Hall, but hadn’t planned to attend until an invitation from the embassy arrived, both for the concert and a reception at Ambassador Yovanovitch’s home. There, we met and were then treated to Jordan and his band’s music, backed at times by Yerevan jazz musicians, notably jazz pianist Vahagn Hayrapetyan. Jordan’s virtuosity was obvious, but his playing style, playing the guitar as he would the piano, was new to most there, who looked forward to the next day’s concert.
Without doubt, the Stanley Jordan concert was a huge success, as his numbers, both as soloist and with his two band members, at contra bass and drums, had the crowd sitting on the edges of their seats, clapping along with Jordan and totally involved in the music. Amazing was when Jordan sat at the piano and played the piano with his left hand and guitar with his right hand, all with total ease. His version of Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” showed the jazz pianist/guitarist’s versatlity and ability to step into other genres of music. But the highlight for many was when, at concert’s end, he invited Vahagn Hayrapetyan to the stage. After a rousing reception for Hayrapetyan, the local favorite played a version of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” that nearly had the crowd out of control. Although ending late, the crowd was ready to stay as long as the music continued.