Jazz’s international reach means that American musicians often find passionate and knowledgeable audiences overseas, but the music has also put down roots in far-flung lands, leading to exquisite and unexpected hybrids. Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan embodies the way that jazz’s fertilization with traditions unconnected by African diaspora roots can lead to startlingly powerful new forms.
His riveting recitals have earned him an avid international following, though moving back to Armenia’s capital Yerevan after several years in Los Angeles and New York City has limited his North American exposure. His teenage passion for jazz was kindled in Yerevan by his piano teacher Vahag Hayrapetyan, a stellar player who studied with Barry Harris. Hamasyan was 16 when his family moved to LA, the same year he won the Montreux Jazz Festival’s piano competition in 2003. He went on to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition in 2006. His extraordinary albums document his ever-deepening engagement with Armenian folk music, including a stimulating pair of releases for the ECM label – 2015’s Luys i Luso with the Yerevan State Chamber Choir, and 2016’s double disc quartet session Atmosphères.