07/18/10 By Fernando Rodriguez
Jazz en Dominicana interviews Vardan Ovsepian
A fresh voice in the jazz piano scene – Armenian born Vardan Ovsepian.
Jazz en Dominicana interviews Vardan Ovsepian
As part of preparing our readers for the upcoming Peter Erskine New Trio concert featuring Damian Erskine & Vardan Ovsepian, Jazz en Dominicana conducted exclusive interviews with the members of the trio, prior to their trip into Santo Domingo for the July 28th concert which will kick off the second series of concerts of the World Jazz Circuit Latina America 2010-2011 season. We started with Damian Erskine and will conclude with Peter Erskine; here we present you with a fresh voice in the jazz piano scene – Armenian born Vardan Ovsepian.
Vardan Ovsepian is an Armenian-born pianist/composer whose studies include Yerevan State Conservatory, Estonian Music Academy, Helsinki Jazz Conservatory, and Berklee College of Music. A “Fresh Sound New Talent” recording artist who has released 4 CDs with the Barcelona-based label, plus an independent release of Vardan Ovsepian Chamber Ensemble (VOCE). He performs with musicians like Peter Erskine, Mick Goodrick, and Jerry Bergonzi.
Jazz en Dominicana (JenD): To start off, we want to thank you for your time in replying with such grace and humility our questions. Vardan, in your own words – who is Vardan Ovsepian?
Vardan Ovsepian (VO): Fernando, it has been a pleasure. To reply your first question demands a philosophical answer; in that case I’d like to associate with a quote by Emerson: “In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine”
JenD: From Classical to Jazz – how was your journey?
VO: It was a gradual process: from classical composition to more contemporary composition with improvisational elements generating interest in improvised music. Then of course looking back and connecting all from Bach to Jarrett. I love the organic mix of classical music and jazz, as I was influenced by Bach, Chopin, Scriabin, Komitas, Khachaturian, Arvo Part, Keith Jarrett, Peter Erskine Trio with John Taylor and Brad Mehldau.
JenD: You are known for your solid playing, like many European Jazzists, and you bring outside influences to it – have you found your own voice? And what is it like to create your own elegant style of music?
VO: I am working on it – building a solid compositional and improvisational language. I have been admiring Scandinavian players for that; they seem to have reached that perfect balance of classical music, jazz improvisation plus the folk element – all organically mixed into one style!
JenD: Your style has been compared to a young Jarrett in precision and expansiveness – share your thoughts on such a comparison?
VO: I am very flattered for that comparison, since Jarrett is one my biggest heroes. His solo piano recordings have opened many doors in my thinking, and still do.
JenD: How did you get invited to play with the Peter Erskine New Trio?
VO: I have been collaborating with Peter for the past couple of years, mostly around Los Angeles. But, as always, time comes when Peter has a new idea for something terrific. Many months ago he invited Damian and me to his studio for a rehearsal, after which it was clear that the trio is formed! This is a very new trio; my collaboration with Peter Erskine so far has been with other bassists around LA, which has been wonderful. But from a very short time with Damian I already see a huge potential for the trio!
JenD: What is it like to have players such as Peter and Damian alongside?
VO: Playing with Peter Erskine is a dream come true. His music inspired me for years and shaped my compositional and improvisational language. Also, playing with Peter I could compare it to a “young poet sitting alongside with Pablo Neruda”. And Damian is a new force, who will bring a wonderful new energy to the trio.
JenD: What are your present projects?
VO: Besides Peter Erskine New Trio, I am writing for a chamber ensemble as a continuation of my chamber ensemble CD released in 2006. I do not have a steady group of musicians at the moment for this writing; have been collaborating with local classical string players, wherever I take this project. The most recent performances were in Tallinn Estonia last October.
JenD: Of your four recordings, which is your favorite and why?
VO: VOCE – Vardan Ovsepian Chamber Ensemble is my favorite so far, since it is the closest to the sound I strive for (as mentioned before – the interweaving of jazz and classical to one form)
JenD: What are your thoughts on Latin America and Jazz?
VO: Latin American influence on jazz is tremendous of course, as we all know. I am most fascinated by masters who use the South American influences in very subtle and delicate way in their writing and playing.
JenD: You will be playing in Santo Domingo this upcoming July 28h. This will be your first time in this Caribbean island, how do you feel about it? And, of the concert itself?
VO: I am very excited about the trip, after what I have seen on the pictures… As for the concert there are a few exciting elements here:
1. The sonic experience of the new start of this trio.
2. New land, new light…
3. Very much looking forward to meeting all the producers and promoters of this program, who have been so patiently working on the organization of this trip.
4. The interaction with a new listener, local artists.
JenD: What do you expect from the group for this concert? The crowd?
OV: Openness to possibilities, which already is there. The program will include a mix of compositions by all of us. I expect a wonderful energy that can flow back and forth from stage to audience.
To finish the interview we asked Vardan to reply the first thing that came to his mind on the following:
Vardan Ovsepian - ¨Searching for velvet¨
The Piano – ¨Is velvet
The New Trio – ¨Is brand new¨
Favorite recording? – “The Zoo Is Far” by Christian Wallumrod Ensemble
Speaking with Vardan was such a joy, the interview was over before we knew it, such a humble man, we thank him and at the same time express our being anxious to see him very soon, as Vardan will be playing with Peter and Damian Erskine on Wednesday July 28th when they go on stage at the Ambar Hall of the Dominican Fiesta Hotel & Casino in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic as the Peter Erskine New Trio opens the second concert of the World Jazz Circuit Latin America.
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