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Levon Malkhasyan: Father of Armenian Jazz

Levon Malkhasyan
Father of Armenian Jazz

by Armen Manukyan

copyright © 2004 Armen Manukyan

To write about this person is difficult and pleasant at the same time. The matter is that he is always in public. He is always smiley and affable, always ready to help with advice and in practice. It seems that he is well known in the city of Yerevan, and that everything is already known about him. Coming close to his 60th year, he remains young in his soul. You can see him with masters of our culture and with the beginners in music. He is ubiquitous.

The reason to write about him was is provided by his first ever album. The first album of famous Armenian jazz pianist Levon Malkhasyan.

I shall open a little secret to you: this album was long awaited by the whole musical society of Yerevan. It is well known that now everybody can record and produce an album whenever they want. But the master of Armenian jazz Levon Malkhasyan, famous throughout the whole of the former Soviet Union didn't have his own album till today. Just isolated recordings of him were heard from time to time on different samplers. And two musicians, by the way, not of the jazz scene, decided to correct this situation. Two excellent singers and composers of Armenian pop — Forsh and Artur Ispiryan — collected the recordings of the pianist piece by piece, made the necessary technical manipulations, all the mixing and mastering, and created the album. The album's musical works were recorded by Levon Malkhasyan in various times, on different stages, in different cities. One very significant item come from the very end of 2003.

The albums begins with a composition which became some kind of calling card for Malkhasyan the pianist. I mean the jazz arrangement of Irina Malkhasyan's song, which lives now its own jazz life — "The Samba for Daddy." Then there are the recordings made at the Yerevan Jazz Festivals in 1998 and 2000, at the concerts in Kiev. They are both jazz standards and works of the Armenian authors (the jazz version of Arno Babajanyan's "Nocturne" makes a big impression), and the second program number on the album is the "Yerevan" performed by the song's author, Irina Malkhasyan (daughter of Levon), the Armen Martirosyan Armenian Jazz Band, and our main hero playing a brilliant piano solo.

Despite of the presence of serious jazz standards, the complex parts and the flashing techniques of the performers (besides Levon and Armen Martirosyan Armenian Jazz Band, the musicians are Nikogaes Vardanyan, drummer Alexander Agamyan, the pianist and singer Vahagn Hayrapetyan, and Ervand Erzinkyan's Radio and TV jazz orchestra and already mentioned above ), the album is very easy, pleasant and entertaining. Listening of the album is not pleasant only to jazz fans, but to listeners unfamiliar with the music as well. And it is easy to explain: in fact the main task of our Malkhas was and is to entertain people around him — whether involved in his music or other aspects of his life.

The album itself is perfectly made. It has a very colorful booklet with bright portrait photos of the musician. In the booklet many Armenian famous musicians and artists made their comments on the personality of Levon Malkhasyan. For example, Henry Igityan, painter, said: "Idols for Levon were always Oscar Peterson and our Armenian composer Arno Babadjanyan. But now, in his turn, Levon became an idol for many generations of Armenian jazz fans." And from composer Robert Amirhanyan: "Malhasyan is a true musician, proudly carrying his cross. He has followers, generosity and the qualities of good organizer. He always is ready to share the music and rhythm coming from him, enriching our social life."

In autum of 2003 the memorable accolade of "Honourable citizen of Yerevan" was presented to Malkhas. A couple of years ago he was also presented the medal of St. Movses Khorenatsy (the second most distinguished medal in Armenia). And the most interesting thing is that Levon Malkhasyan is a trained botanist, without formal musical education.

The years presented in the CD included many interesting events. The pianist traveled and performed in many countries, besides organizing musical events in Yerevan. Everybody knows that to connect with anything regarding jazz in Yerevan, one must contact Levon for advice, for info, for assistance.

Nobody, including Levon himself, knows why this is only the first album documenting his long jazz life. He always had material to record, had good partners to play with, and why he never did it before is a secret, the answer to even he can't give.

"I live to play jazz," he says. "I play the music which expresses what I want to say, what I dream, what I can trust to the closest friends." These words of Malkhas are put in the very end of the CD's booklet. In some way they explain the soul and provide a look into the heart of the Father of Armenian jazz.

Armen Manukyan has offered to provide copies of Levon Malkhasyan's CD to those with legitimate interest; contact him via this e-mail form.

C o m m e n t s

GREAT CD! 1 of 2
Artur Gevorkyan
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December 12, 04

Great CD!!!!!!!! He's really the father of Armenian jazz!

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