Tigran Hamasyan's album An Ancient Observer includes ten new compositions, two of which are based on Armenian melodies. Some are through-composed and completely written out, while others are composed with ample space for Hamasyan to improvise. He cites a wide range of influences—from Baroque dance to hip-hop grooves adapted to piano—and the sounds of his native country of Armenia are present, as always. DownBeat exclaims: "It's simply breathtaking."
Nonesuch Records releases its second album from pianist Tigran Hamasyan, An Ancient Observer, on March 31, 2017. An Ancient Observer is the follow-up to Hamasyan's label debut, Mockroot, of which the Guardian said, "A phenomenal piano player, an irrepressible entertainer, a promising experimenter with hi-tech gizmology and a creative world-music composer. Mockroot plays vivaciously to all those strengths." The musician says of his new solo recording, which features ten new compositions: "These songs are musical observations about the world we live in now, and the weight of history we carry with us." Hamasyan will tour the US in February and March, then Europe in the spring.
An Ancient Observer's songs—two of which are based on Armenian melodies—were written over the last four years. Some of the pieces are through-composed and completely written out, while others are composed with ample space for Hamasyan to improvise. Many include vocals layered into the mix. As with most of his compositions, Hamasyan cites a wide range of influences, from Baroque dance to hip-hop, with pedals connected to a synthesizer on a few tracks—while the sounds of his native country also are present, as always.
Hamasyan has returned to Armenia, where his daily life inspired these new pieces: "I gaze out of my window and see the biblical mountain Ararat with perpetual snow on its peak, with electrical towers with wires in the foreground cutting the picture, and satellite dishes melted onto old and modern houses—ancestral smoke coming out of their chimneys—and birds hovering above the trees along with occasional airplane trails in the vast sky. It is a dialogue, this interaction of God-given ancient nature with our modern human achievements," he says. "For me it is an awakening, and a beautiful feeling, to be able to observe the magnificence of this sleeping volcanic giant, which has existed for millions of years and was observed by the Ararat Valley Koura-Arax culture through to the present day citizens of the Armenian republic. I can see and observe the same birds, animals, rivers, and mountains that the craftsman of 4,000 years ago painted on a clay vessel. He was observing the same thing I observe now, and what remains is his or her beautiful work of art."
Born in Armenia in 1987 before relocating with his family to Los Angeles in 2003, Tigran Hamasyan currently resides in Erevan, Armenia. He began playing piano at the age of three and started performing in festivals and competitions when he was eleven years old, winning the Montreux Jazz Festival's piano competition in 2003. Hamasyan released his debut album, World Passion, in 2005 at the age of seventeen. The following year, he won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. Subsequent albums include New Era (2007); Red Hail (2009); A Fable (2011), for which he was awarded a Victoires de la Musique (the equivalent of a Grammy Award in France); Shadow Theater (2013); Luys i Luso (2015); and Mockroot (2015), for which he won the Echo Jazz Award for International Piano Instrumentalist of the Year. In addition to awards and critical praise, Hamasyan has built a dedicated international following, as well as praise from Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Brad Mehldau.
Produced by Tigran Hamasyan
Recorded and Mixed by Antoine Gaillet for FLAM Music
Assistant Engineers: Clément Gariel, Olivier Leducq
All tracks recorded at Studio de Meudon, Meudon, France
“New Baroque 2” recorded by Sergey Gasparyan at Alphasound Recording Studio, Yerevan, Armenia
Additional vocals on “The Cave of Rebirth” and “Leninagone” recorded at Alphasound Recording Studio
Mastered by Nate Wood at Kerseboom
All compositions written by Tigran Hamasyan
except “Nairian Odyssey” and “Etude No. 1,” which are based on Armenian folk melodies
All works published by Yergatun, administered by Universal Publishing (ex. USA and Canada)
All photos by Elena Petrosyan except page 12 photo by Zaven Khachikyan
Photo editing assisted by Sonia Baghdasarian
Tigran Hamasyan, piano, voices, synths, Fender Rhodes, effects