An interview with Tigran Hamasyan: My routine is to always write new music and find new things … Videos

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Jazz interview with Jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Tigran Hamasyan: – I grew up in Gyumri Armenia until I was 9 years old, after which my family moved to Yerevan and I lived there until I turned 16.

I don’t remember how and when I got interested in music. All I remember is that I loved music. My father, who is a big rock fan made me listen to the records of classic rock bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Nazareth … etc even when I was still in my mother’s belly. My uncle ( my father’s brother) on the other hand was a jazz, funk, soul music fan, so when I was around 3 years old he slowly started introducing me to the music he was listening to.

JBN.S: – What interested you in picking up the piano?

TH: – My parents and my grand parents simply owned a piano and I guess I preferred that to any other instrument. At least I didn’t express the any desire to learn a different instrument.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the piano you are today? What made you choose the piano?

TH: – I was very lucky because all of my teachers at three different music schools in Armenia where great, they supported the fact that I liked improvising and helped me to acquire proper technique and of course the great musical knowledge that comes with playing classical music. This is as far as my official education went.

In regards to my education I got from non official persons – I owe a great deal to my uncle who was the dearest person in my life. Somebody that was my adviser, my friend, and just somebody that blindly  believed in me and did everything for me to not get spoiled and waste whatever talent I had. When I was 3-4 years old he would tell me things like, “you will see, one day you will play on the same stage as Herbie, and you will play with great jazz legends”.

There is one more very important person in my life who really taught me what jazz is, and I would say I became a jazz improviser after one year of studying with him. I of course talking about a genius pianist Vahagn Hayrapetyan. He talk me how to improvise upon form by teaching me the bebop school of Barry Harris.

JBN.S: – What about the Your sound did that influence at all? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

TH: – I guess I spent a lot of time listening to great piano players like Art Tatum, Monk, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Brad Mehldau…etc also a lot of classical pianists like Maurizio Pollini, Vladimir Horowitz, Konstantin Scherbakov, Glenn Gould … etc.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

TH: – My routine is to always write new music and find new things. I constantly challenge my self to sound better and to find new forms and sounds. I compose a lot and this process is very important for me. I learn so much from this creative process. I also practice improvising on the forms that I create for that reason, and of course warming up and taking care of my body so I can be able to play whatever my brain tells me to play.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

TH: – Nobody ever goes the same route. Everybody has  their path and destiny. I think the most important thing here is to stay true to what you believe in music and 99% of the time only play and be in the music you love. Also working hard is as important as having a big talent. I have seen too many talented kids go the wrong way and totally waste their potential and their God given gift. Listening to advices is very good but knowing what you want to do and making the decision is more important.

JBN.S: – Аnd finally jazz can be a business today and someday?

TH: – Jazz is music that also brings profit. Of course the profit of “making it” in the Jazz world is not the same profit as of “making it” in the Pop music but then comparing these things makes no sense for me. If all you care in music is fame and money then you are in the wrong place and have to reconsider what you really want to be. Jazz music is an attachment and if you love it then you will find the way to make a living.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are from half-a-century ago?

TH: – There is a lot of new jazz that came out of the past 30 years and there is a lot great new jazz being born right now. Jazz in 21st century could incorporate many genres in it self and in my opinion a lot of young people are interested in it.

JBN.S: – What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

TH: – My hopes are that jazz music will always see new horizons and we will see genius musicians in the future. The biggest concern for the future jazz musician should be to always love the music they are playing and have one thing they are teaching the next generation and what should matter is what they will leave behind after they are gone.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

TH: – I have a lot of ideas and recorded pieces of unfinished music that I am constantly working on and also making new pieces. So there is so much work to be done and so many albums to make. The next one will most likely be a trio album though.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between the blues/jazz and the genres of local folk music and traditional forms?

TH: – Blues is the backbone of Jazz. Blues IS folk music for me and thus it connects with other folk musics from around the world. Now days folk music is like an artefact in a museum people fixed one version of it and think that this is the only way the song should sound. But this is a wrong perception of folk music. Back only 200 years ago before the industrialism came along and the tractors and machinery replaced the folk songs that were being born during the different processes of a human life for example ploughing, collecting grains, beating grains, making doe, singing a lullaby, and many rituals, celebrations that were accompanied by music and this music was not fixed on a piece of paper and performed by virtuoso singers, players that went to the conservatory and got a masters degree. No it was song by people who didn’t even know what musical note is and what rhythm is…  This is when folk music was alive and every singer or instrumentalist would sing or play the piece of music in their way and  new music was born that way. In other words improvisation was a crucial part of folk music and jazz being one of the highs form of improvised music it’s ties with folk music is obvious. Through out the history of jazz there has been so many folk music influences that created whole different styles of jazz music.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

TH: – Chick Corea – Now he sings no he sobs

Hilliard Ensemble – Perotin

Thelonious Monk quartet – Live in Japan 1963

Efterklang – Tripper

Stravinsky – Sonata for 2 pianos

Parik Nazarian – Folk songs

AKN Ensemble – Chants Liturgiques Armeniens

Craig Taborn – Chants

Prokofiev – Visions Fugitive…

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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