Saturday 17 November 2012

Tigran Hamasiyan at the Wigmore Hall

I seem to be having a bit of an Armenian season. First there was the Arbovian Street in Yerevan Picture Post, then there was the Dijvan Gaspariyan concert, not to mention Cafe Ararat in Moscow and to keep the theme going I went to Tigran Hamasiyan's London Jazz Festival Concert at the Wigmore Hall last week.

I am not entirely sure how to categorise Tigran's music. There are clearly strong jazz influences in the work of this young piano maestro, but he also delves into electronica (which is less my thing), unusual use of his vocal talents and perhaps most of all, makes much reference to Armenian folk music. All of these were displayed during his Wigmore Hall appearance. Perhaps evidence of categorisation not mattering! He played several tracks from his recent A Fable album - a solo piano collection. Tigran performed some of his own compositions such as the title track, one all time great jazz standard - One Day My Prince Will Come (made famous by an earlier piano maestro - the late, great Bill Evans) and some songs inspired by classical Armenian poetry.

At his Wigmore concert he was joined by Armenian female vocalist Gayanee Movsisyan whose sang two of the tacks inspired by Armenian folk and religious music as well as joining Tigran on a short improvised session. Like many pianists, his playing is very physical, with lots of mumbling and grunting, much standing up and leaning in very close to the piano. I especially liked the title track of the album, which you can listen to by clicking on the video link above.

Tigran was born in Gyumri, Armenia's second city in 1987 and exhibited musical talent at a very early age, performing at the first International Jazz Festival in Yerevan in 1998 and again in 2000. At 16, he moved with his parents and painter/ sculptor sister to Los Angeles, going on to study at the University of Southern California and winning the prestigious Thelonius Monk piano competition. Still only 25, and having released probably his best album so far, we can expect many years of magical music from him. His appeal is wide and transcends the usual musical boundaries - evidence of this being the diversity of the audience at the Wigmore Hall - a much younger audience than mainstream jazz often attracts as well as being ethnically diverse.

The Hall itself is all worth a visit, with its wonderful symbolist paintings above the stage. Painted by Gerald Moria and Frank Lynn Jenkins in 1901 and restored ninety years later, they include depictions of the "Soul of Music" and "The Genius of Harmony" and would not have looked out of place in the Vienna or Budapest of the same period.

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