From the Biblical Ararat mountain . . .
Sacred spaces have a particular resonance for jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan. His 2015 Luys i Luso (Light from Light) tour, with the Yerevan State Chamber Choir, brought him to churches and cathedrals around the world – including Dublin’s Christ Church – blending his delicate, folkinflected improvisations with the haunting sacred music of his native Armenia. This week, the 29-year-old virtuoso returns alone to Christ Church, as part of the long-running Waltons’ World Masters series, for a solo concertthat will draw all those who heard him the last time, along with most of their friends.
Hamasyan is followed around by the sort of breathless praise reserved for only the very top layer of instrumentalists in music, so here’s a little more. He was barely into his teens when he was “discovered” at a jazz festival in Armenia, and before the age of 20, he had won the piano award at the Montreux Jazz Festival and the prestigious Thelonious Monk Prize in New York. Since moving to the US at the age of 16, he has recorded acclaimed albums for Verve, ECM and Nonesuch, and has received approving nods from fellow pianists like Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Brad Mehldau.
As well as jaw-dropping instrumental technique, there is an unusual depth and sense of reverence in his playing. He has been particularly influenced by the sacred music of his homeland, a tradition that reaches back to the dawn of western Christianity, and he has recently returned to live in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, where he drew inspiration for the music on his latest release, An Ancient Observer.
“When I gaze out of my window and see the biblical mountain Ararat with the perpetual snow on its peak,” he says, “with foregrounds of electrical towers with wires cutting the picture, and the satellite dishes melted on to old and modern houses, ancestral smoke coming out of the chimneys and the birds hovering above the trees with occasional airplane trails in the vastness of the sky . . . for me it is an awakening.”
Hearing him perform that music, alone in the vast natural acoustics of Christ Church Cathedral pm Saturday night will be akin to a religious experience, even for the most confirmed pagan. For more, see newschool.ie
As well as jaw-dropping instrumental technique, there is an unusual depth and sense of reverence in his playing