Musical Places in Yerevan: Jazz - Move2Armenia

Musical places in Yerevan: jazz

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Musical places in Yerevan: jazz
19.12.2022
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This series of texts is about the places where people listen to music in the Armenian capital. It was prepared by our friends from the MOST project. We have already published published them story about Yerevan clubs, this text is about jazz.

If you walk along the streets of Yerevan and look at the music posters, you will notice that mainly rabis, techno and jazz are played here. In a few months of living in Armenia, I got to many different musical events - from a jazz festival to a daytime rave on the children's railway.

In 1938, on the direct orders of the administration of the republic, the State Jazz Orchestra of Armenia was created under the leadership of the young composer and cellist Artemy Ayvazyan. The main feature of Armenian jazz has become national melodies: folk melodies, ethnic motifs and arrangements of urban folklore. The orchestra’s original call sign, opening all concerts, was Ayvazyan’s “Armenian Rhapsody”. True, Ayvazyan did not immediately begin to use folk melodies: if in the 1930s some songs echoed the music of pre-war marches performed by the same type of brass bands, then in the 1940s they were replaced by folk melodies and instrumental diversity. The most popular songs among the public were included in the permanent repertoire of the State Variety Ensemble. In the 1980s they were published on the disc "Jan Yerevan".

Over the several years of its existence, Ayvazyan’s jazz ensemble managed to tour dozens of cities in the Union. During World War II, the orchestra was sent to the front: to maintain the morale of the soldiers, it was necessary to somehow entertain (such “charity” concerts for the army were organized at that time all over the world; in some places this practice is still widespread). The troupe played at military bases, hospitals, on ships and even in shelters.

After the war, as part of the anti-cosmopolitanism campaign—or “saxophone straightening”—jazz ensembles were disbanded and musicians were persecuted. This affected Armenia to a lesser extent: although the State Jazz Ensemble was renamed the Armenian Variety Orchestra and its program was changed, Artemy Ayvazyan continued to lead the troupe until 1956. After the start of de-Stalinization, the Jazz Ensemble was headed by Konstantin Orbelyan - with him the so-called “jazz epidemic” began - the golden age of Armenian jazz bands. After the end of the “Orbelian” era, in the “dark years”, the orchestra was disbanded. The musicians resumed their work only in 1997, when the orchestra was led by composer Armen Martirosyan. Now the State Jazz Orchestra rarely gives concerts. Getting on them is a great success and, as they say, an unforgettable pleasure. 

At the beginning of my review, I will note that Yerevan is a small city compared to other capitals of the former Soviet republics: there are few exclusively jazz venues here. Therefore, you can stumble upon a jazz gig quite by accident, in an unusual place - in a cafeteria or in a club with a pool. 

Malkhas Jazz Club

Address: st. Pushkina, 52/1

Telephone: +374 10 535350; +374 98 535369

The club was founded by the legend of Armenian jazz - pianist Levon "Malkhas" Malkhasyan. Malkhas started playing at the height of the "jazz epidemic". As a student at the Bryusov Institute, he assembled the Malkhas Jazz Quartet - the ensemble quickly became known throughout the Soviet Union. Today Malkhasyan is also engaged in the popularization of the jazz culture of Armenia. In 1980, he stood at the origins of the first jazz institution at the Henrikh Igityan Aesthetic Center, where jazz musicians gathered for jam sessions. In the mid-nineties, Malkhasyan created an international jazz festival in Yerevan, and in 2000 he organized a joint concert by Chick Corea and the State Jazz Orchestra of Armenia at the festival.

Every day at Malkhas Jazz Club they play "gigs" - this is how jazz performers call their concerts. Malkhas Jazz Club feature is Malkhasyan's daily performance, which starts at midnight sharp.

Ulikhanyan Club

Address: pr-kt Sayat-Nova, 7

Ulikhanyan is a kind of jazz mecca in Armenia. The concert schedule is known several weeks in advance, and if you do not reserve a table in advance, you will only be able to sit at the bar counter. Mostly bebop and Dixieland are played in Ulikhanyan. In my opinion, among the artists who regularly perform there, it is worth listening to the band ArmStrong Dixie, pianist Vahagn Hayrapetyan and vibraphonist Tigran Peshtmaldzhyan. The bar also hosts jazz jams on Mondays. Both famous performers and young ones take part in them, of which I would single out drummer Harut Harutyunyan and singer Antonina Eremina, who recently moved to Yerevan.

I have also been to jazz concerts in Yerevan Philharmonic, in Mezzo Club and in emigrant bar TUF. But in these institutions, jazz is only part of an extensive multi-genre program. Therefore, the main advice for jazz lovers who came to Yerevan can be formulated as follows: follow specific performers, not venues.

Author Vasily Utekhin

The text that you have read is a partnership material with the MOST cultural and educational project.

BRIDGE wants to help settle in a new place for those who were forced to leave their country - and this means not only obtaining the necessary documents and withdrawing money from the bank, but also getting to know the inner life of the place where you moved.

BRIDGE talks about the life of Armenia: its theaters, museums, exhibitions, festivals, parks, artists and directors, entrepreneurs and artisans - in general, about places, events and people that seemed remarkable to the editors.

Read MOST magazine and subscribe to Instagram project, so as not to miss interesting updates.

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Musical places in Yerevan: jazz
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