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David Azarian Dies

David Azarian, an Armenian-born jazz pianist and composer, died Saturday when he was hit by a car while changing a tire by the roadside. He was 51.

Azarian was born in Yerevan, Armenia in 1952, the son of two teachers; his father taught music, his mother taught language. At age seven Azarian entered the Sayat Nova Music School to study piano and composition. It was also around that time that Azarian began listening to the Voice of America radio program and discovered jazz. In 1967 he enrolled at Professional Tchaikovsky School of Music and after graduating in 1970 moved on to the Yerevan Gomidas Conservatory. While studying at the conservatory, he founded a jazz ensemble and began working in jazz clubs. Once out of school he formed a jazz trio that toured the Soviet Union and Europe during the 1980s. In 1989 the trio visited the U.S. for what was planned as a 10-day tour, but Azarian decided to stay in the States. He married and settled in the Boston area.

Azarian found work easily in the States and performed multiple times at Carnegie Hall, the Blue Note, Birdland and Sweet Basil, among other jazz venues. He recorded four albums as a leader, starting with 1984’s Longing on the Gravity label and ending with the 1998 concert recording Desire, also on Gravity. He was also a faculty member at the Berklee School of Music.

Azarian was struck Saturday night by an SUV as he was changing a tire on his minivan in the shoulder of Interstate 93 in Stoneham, Mass. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, and a son from a previous marriage.

Donations in memory of David Azarian can be sent to the Amaras Art Alliance

Inc. for the David Azarian Family Memorial Fund in care of Watertown

Savings Bank, P.O. Box 230, Watertown Mass. 02471.

Originally Published