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Exploring the Enigmatic Magic of Armenian Soviet Jazz

Armenian Jazz, my friends, is like a wild ride through the peaks and valleys of a mountain ridge. It has the soulful intensity of a grizzly bear, the smoothness of a satin dress, and the unpredictability of a wild stallion. 

Armenian music takes on many forms, from traditional folk music ringing out of an oud, to the religious compositions that have resounded throughout Armenian churches for centuries, or even the Estradayin music forged by the Armenian diaspora. Yet, I’ve seldom heard the strain of Armenian Jazz which strikes me as a hidden gem, revealing the depths of Armenian creativity and tenacity. 

In this unlikely fusion of Western jazz influences like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday with Armenian musical traditions, we glimpse the ingenuity of people who continue to find new ways to express their cultural identity. 

There’s a sophistication to it, one that comes from a deep appreciation of the craft, like a beautiful tapestry, woven together with care and attention to detail. 

If you’ve never had a chance to experience it yourself, I say buckle up for an opulent ride through the remarkable world of Armenian Jazz:

Datevik Oganesyan, with a sultry voice of simmering inflection, performs ‘Vocalize’ alongside the Armenian State Jazz Orchestra led by Konstatin Orbelyan

Datevik has performed in over 30 countries and has six solo albums under her belt. 

“Warm Apartment” sounds like a carefree sunny Sunday morning. 

World-renowned composer Konstantin Orbelyan was head of the State Jazz Orchestra of Armenia throughout the 70s. 

Konstantin was recognized as a Composer and People’s Artist of the USSR and Armenia, and his awards included the Medal of Honor of Russia, the Medal of Honor of Armenia, and the St. Mesrop Mashtots Medal.

Listen to “‘Silhouette” an upbeat, dynamic groove through Armenian Jazz-Funk, also arranged by Kostantin.

Listen to the full album here.

“Earth, Wind, & Fire” delivers a strong backbeat and layers of zestful sonic textures.

Jazz composer, and saxophonist Tovmas Gevorgyan, received the Honored Artist of the RSFSR.  Listen to his smooth and melodic big band bossa nova track.

Zara Tonikyan “Դու իմ երգն ես (You Are My Song)” is a soulful blend of Armenian folk music and jazz. Zara’s vibrant and playful vocals take us on a rollercoaster ride through the highs and lows of the melody.

These are a few of the many Armenian jazz musicians, singers, and composers. There is still a lot to dig into and discover. Let me know what you find.

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