Tigran – Shadow Theater

tigran(Verve 374 26744)

Tigran Hamasyan – or just Tigran as he now prefers to be known – is one of those musicians who seems to have emerged fully formed. Although he is only 26, he has in fact been playing piano since the age of three and performing at European festivals from the age of 13. This second album for Universal reveals an astonishingly well-developed and completely realised individual sound world.

Born in Armenia, he moved with his parents to Los Angeles when he was 16. Luckily a love of the folk music of the land of his birth has moved with him, and it is this combination of jazz creativity applied to folk tunes and his own folk-inflected writing that gives him such an original sound.

That and his eclectic tastes. You will find music box sounds on here, dark fairytale music, prog rock, hip hop rhythms and jump cut odd-timed Eurasian complexity, minimalism, and classical piano virtuosity.

Perhaps because of the rhythmic piano applied to folk melodies and the way Tigran sings, I am reminded quite frequently of another true original, the Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen. I am also reminded, when listening to Tigran, that any talk of jazz ailing or being in terminal decline is completely absurd with musicians as charismatic as this willing to apply the J-label to their art.

Although Tigran’s first Universal release was a multi-tracked solo affair, here he has a band which includes the marvellous singer Areni Agbabian. She will be with him, along with Charles Altura on guitar, Arthur Hnatek on drums and Chris Tordini on bass, at the EFG London Jazz Festival. Should be a terrific concert.

  • Tigran is at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in a double bill with Elena Duni on Tuesday 19 November – full details are here.


Categories: CD review

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