Jazz interview with jazz trumpeter, bandleader Yervand Margaryan. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Yervand Margaryan: – I was born and grew up in Tbilisi (Georgia). My first interest towards music was in early childhood. I loved singing songs from famous cartoons since I was 4 years old. And at that time I remember I gathered a huge collection of such cartoons with original songs on the vinyls. I played them everyday and sang along all of these by heart.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the trumpet? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the trumpet?
YM: – My father is a big musical fan especially of the French singer with Armenian heritage Charles Aznavour. He didn’t miss any old or new record of that singer. Besides this he also loved listening to jazz music. All of this didn’t miss my attention. At 14 I discovered a tremendous vinyl of Louis Armstrong and from that moment on fell in love with jazz! I have been lucky in life. When I moved to Yerevan, a famous American pianist of Armenian heritage Armen Donelyan came here with master classes! After literally a couple of his workshops I understood in which direction I had to develop and this was a deciding period in my choice for my future path!
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
YM: – Sound is a language . We express an idea with a language. The idea itself is born from the context which is always different. Accordingly sound always arises from context and can change depending on the composition. And in music context is; style, tempo, emotional substance, etc. I have a small daily routine to always maintain the shape of my technical apparatus which is responsible for my context dependable flexible sound.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
YM: – When there is time for practice I love to play and improvise standards in a variety of tempos from the slowest to the fastest in completely different styles from pop and reggae to straight 8 and hard bop in all keys.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
YM: – For me the priority in music, just like in life is the context. Everything arises from the context. For me it all depends what kind of music I play at that moment. Let’s agree, that it would be clumsy to imagine using pentatonic patterns in dixieyland music or to play bibop patterns in bossa nova. Everything has to be natural and arising from the context.
JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you of 2017 year?
YM: – I really like Arturo Sandoval’s last album “Ultimates Duets.”
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
YM: – Of course the best that can be done is to combine the intellect with the soul! And I try to walk on that path. But nonetheless for me the priority in music and life is the heart and soul! Only the outcome of the heart and soul can reach out and touch the hearts and souls of your listeners!
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
YM: – I have had many memorable gigs, concerts and studio recordings. All of them are precious for me in an equal manner. I can only note that I’ve been lucky to work with such performers as Michel Legrand (France), Igor Butman (Russia), Charles Davis (USA),Roy Hargrove (USA),Ramon Flores (USA) Victor Espinola (Paraguay), Ziad Rahbani (Lebanon), Ventzislav Blagoev (Bulgaria), Roger Wright (England), Arno Van Nieuwenhuize (Netherlands), Arto Tunchboyajian (USA), Adam Rapa (USA), Zaid Nasser (USA), Michel Delakian (France), Stephane Stefan Patry (France), etc.
JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?
YM: – My main advice is to be dedicated to your work and believe in what you do! Sooner or later it will bring you to success!
JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?
YM: – Yes, I firmly believe that jazz can also be a business in addition. Everything depends how you do your work and deliver it to the audience.
JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?
YM: – I consider a very important collaboration with the famous composer and pianist Ziad Rahbani. For me that collaboration has started in the beginning of my musical career and lasts until now. I like his non-standard approach to music. These are original compositions in which you always have to thoroughly approach each of your solo performances. Minimalism, stylistic opportunities and also a unique musical color which combines jazz music as well as national motives; all of this is extraordinarily interesting and captivating! We also talked a lot with Ziad on music and I noticed the similarity of views with him. All of this also influenced me when started composing my own music.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
YM: – That’s a good question! In my opinion there are several ways and they are not mutually exclusive. Most importantly is the form in which the music is delivered. We need newly composed music, which reflects our life with its rhythm, harmony. It will definitely be close to young people because it originates from our daily lives. And evergreen repertuar is a classic. And there’s two ways for it to develop; perform them like classics without changing anything or perform them them using new and interesting rhythmic and harmonic solutions. But this doesn’t mean that the priority here is to change something. The priority is the sense of taste and style! That’s the most important thing!
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
YM: – This is how I imagine it all. All of us received this life as a gift. And each one of us has a special mission uniquely suited to him. Our life is the dream of God. And God sent us here to manifest various divine qualities; talents and good acts to make this planet the way God and ideally each one of us would have wanted to see! And only when we accomplish the mission assigned to us we become happy! And we make the people around us happy too! It’s a different issue that a lot of people often don’t believe in their mission in this life, don’t believe in miracles, in good. And it gets them to waste the missions assigned only to them and making them unhappy. You always need to believe in your mission and listen to your heart!
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
YM: – I look optimistically into the future. I have a lot of ideas and projects in mind! It also concerns the development of jazz in Armenia. New concerts and festivals by their format. It also concerns Armenia’s presence in the international arena as well as joint international projects! Let’s hope there’s much energy and health to accomplish all of this!
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
YM: – Maybe this is a utopia, but I would make all the news channels and shows to broadcast good music, concerts and recordings instead of bad and horrific news about catastrophes,murders, etc. Then our world surely would turn in the right direction!
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
YM: – From my early devotion to jazz one of my idols was the singer and trumpet player Chet Backer. Quite recently I caught myself on the thought that there are song lyrics that are in sync to my life experience and I have a message to express with them, to sing them more specifically. Very recently I sang “When I Fall in Love” for the first time in my life publicly at the Armas Wine & Jazz Festival. I think everything went alright and I would very much like to prepare a new project in which I would completely sing famous standards in a couple of months. That’s my next goal!
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?
YM: – There is a little similarity between jazz and world music. But I still think that a mix of genres can give wonderful fruits both creatively and as a means to popularize jazz in the whole world!
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
YM: – I always love to listen to a variety of music from classical to rap. From the jazz performers of our time I like to listen to Тill Brönner, Arturo Sandoval, Roy Hargrove, Chris Botti, etc.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
YM: – I really believe that I was born in a time right for me. But often I would like to travel on a time machine through all the historic periods!
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself …
YM: – How do you ideally envision the future of jazz in Armenia and the role of the Armenian musicians in the international arena?
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. I am sorry, I do not want to offend a compatriots.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan