21 November 2014, 10:12
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Autumn Nights with an Armenian Jazz Legend

Two windows of a building on the corner of Prospect [the former name of Mashtots Avenue, still used by locals] and Amiryan streets are lit even into the darkest hours of the night. Quiet and out of sight, one of the godfather’s of Armenian Jazz, Stepan Shakarian, scribbles down notes for yet another jazz composition with a pencil that’s shorter than his pinky. The 80 year old jazz master proudly states that he takes walks in the city every single day to ensure that he won’t turn into a relic.

A Caucasian Family Tree of Jazz with Troubador's Roots

My forefathers are from Goghtan province, historically a troubadour area. Due to war my family migrated to Karabagh and later to Baku. Even there [Baku] I was thinking about jazz. We moved to Yerevan in 1952. There was a 45 minute radio program, American Jazz Hour, that was broadcasted from some African country. We would get together with a group of young guys and listen to it without making a sound--that’s how I fell in love with black music.

Aram Khachaturian's Favorite Pupil

When I was 21, Aram Khachaturian took me to Moscow, he had heard me in Yerevan and liked how I played.

Aram Ilyich would often say, “Styopa, you’re my son, tell me your heart’s desire”. I asked him to introduce me to the best teachers in Moscow. I learned a lot from him. Yet I learned the most on my own. A professional music background won’t teach you how to digest music properly. I was studying at the same with composer Mikael Tariverdiev. Khachaturian loved us both and had big hopes for us.

Khachaturian left us with a famous expression that is also used when people describe me: «сначала нос, потом очки, потом он сам» [first the nose, then the glasses, then him]. I go out to walk in the street everyday because I’m afraid of becoming a relic.

The Dark and Cold Years, A Breeding Ground for Jazz?

I wrote my best compositions in the early nineties. It was cold. I would snuggle under a warm blanket, place hot bricks under my feet, and start composing. As a result of those circumstances, I produced the most incredible works…

The Wish of an 80-year-old Professor

I teach at the Jrbashyan school and at the national conservatory. I teach my students, but at the same time I try my hardest to make them understand that self-teaching is the only path for a musician. Not all of the great composers had professional training. In fact, for some of them, it was only because they were self-taught that they were they able to secure their voice in music. 

Rationalizing the Recession in Armenian Jazz

Music progresses when new, significant pieces are written. In the 21st century, the silenced jazz of the Soviet era has transformed into small groups of about three or four people gathering in clubs and simply playing around with a piano. In a broad sense, there are hundreds of jazz musicians in Armenia. It pains me to say, however, that there are not many jazz composers.

Stephan Shakarian is founder and director of Soviet Armenia’s State Committee of Radio Broadcasting Soloist’s Jazz Ensemble. He has composed more than 100 jazz compositions that have now become staples of local Armenian jazz bands. His pieces are also played by several national jazz bands.

Aram Khatchaturian with his students S. Shakarian and M. TariverdievAram Khatchaturian with his students S. Shakarian and M. Tariverdiev
Ստեփան Շաքարյանն ու Միքայել Թարիվերդիևը

Այս հոդվածի հայերեն տարբերակի համար սեղմեք այստեղ։ 

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