Tatev Yeghiazaryan is set apart from other jazz vocalists. She can lead the band with natural lyrical phrasing, and a sense of time and powerful feel for swing that are unfaltering, she can follow as another instrument in harmony or support, and she is not afraid to lay back and hand over the stage to the rest of the band. Her arrangements, interaction with her fellow musicians and overall presence on stage show wisdom beyond her years. Her versatility and passion to break the perception of the vocalist as separate from the band has earned the respect of the musicians she plays with.
To Tatev, the voice is special because of its individualizing nature; there is more variation among voices than among any other instrument. Despite this, many vocalists try to sound the same. “I want to create an original voice that won’t be repeated by anyone; that will be very recognizable. I think that my being a pianist and also aware of my Armenian heritage of music will help me achieve that goal.”
Tatev was born in Armenia on July 7th 1987 to artists Mels Yeghiazaryan and Karine Asharkyan. She quickly showed a great interest for music and began formal classical lessons in both voice and piano at the age of 6. Having at first been trained in classical voice, Tatev had her first professional concert at the age of 9.
From birth, Tatev was surrounded with the music of her country, rich in eastern ornamentation and texture and built on fundamental classical ideas, this music is part of every Armenian’s national Identity. From here Tatev learned sounds that cannot be found elsewhere. “Everyday I’m realizing that my uniqueness in this world would be the Armenianess in me. My roots affect my music more than I realize, and I think now I shall start using it as an advantage towards my aspiration.” Tatev attributes her use of odd phrasing and modal sound in her compositions and arrangements to this influence.
Until a few years before her birth, jazz was outlawed by the occupying Soviet Union. The genre may well have died completely from Soviet occupied countries were it not for enthusiasts like her father, who kept records against the law. It was because of these recordings and her father’s passion that Tatev was introduced to jazz at a young age. However, Tatev did not find herself in an atmosphere that promoting of jazz performance, so at the time, she found herself more comfortable and welcomed in a style with more pop leanings than those of a true jazz style.
With this style, Tatev had her first experiences in performance and won numerous musical competitions. Most notably, at the age of 11 she had the honor of participating in the 1998 Yerevan International Jazz Festival for an audience of three thousand at the Opera House of Yerevan among acclaimed jazz musicians such as Datevik Hovanisyan & Armen Donelian, Chick Corea, and New York Voices. Tatev had a series of concerts in Los Angeles as a winner of the “Do Re Mi” singing competition at the age of 11. She was invited on several radio and television interviews and for a time enjoyed a level of fame. During this time, Tatev fell in love with the allure of the crowd, but she gradually realized as she matured that what she was singing was “…not jazz and not what I wanted.”
Tatev began high school at a British-Armenian school, but came to the United States in 2003 (at age 15) already fluent in three languages and completed her degree here. For her first year, she slumped into a depression as many do when leaving their culture, but she was motivated during this time to write and arrange classical and particularly Armenian music. As a result, she began performing her arrangements with two of her sisters, Sona and Lucine, as the leader of the group YY Sisters, and they were very well received especially be Armenian-American audiences. Most notably, the group performed at Cooper Union NYC for the memorial day of the Armenian Genocide in 2005; at Columbia University the following year. They had a solo concert in Austin, Texas and numerous performances in many Armenian churches.
During this time, Tatev’s “jazz spirit” began to emerge, and she gradually began to view both voice and piano from a jazz perspective. She adjusted her sound to suite her developing taste. “I came here and I realized that I need to go back to the beginning to understand how to sing jazz without pop melismas; not precisely related to jazz stuff…Listening to my recordings I wanting to throw up and kind of made me realize that that’s not what I need to be producing at all; I realized that’s not the jazz sound and that that’s what I wanted to have…I wished to burn those recordings.”
Soon after this transformation and a year after coming to the US, Tatev was accepted into the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Wachovia Jazz for Teens Program with a full scholarship, headed by reed player Don Braden and singer Rosanna Vitro. It was here that Tatev quickly bloomed as a jazz musician and stretched beyond immediate performance into being a leader and arranging songs. “I got bored of guys just playing through the fake book and not really adding anything; I couldn’t get any pleasure or meaning out of it, so that’s when I started to arrange jazz songs.” During her involvement with NJPAC, Tatev had two concerts in the Victoria Theater of NJPAC, and was asked to record at the WBGO studio. Tatev performed as a guest with Roseanna Vitro at the Blue Note, and she also opened a performance for legendary Bucky Pizzarelli.
Tatev has completed a duel associate’s degree in classical piano and voice, and is pursuing a performance degree in jazz studies majoring in Jazz voice with jazz vocalist, pianist and arranger, Nancy Marano as well as having the great opportunity for private jazz piano lessons with Janet Reeves in the note-worthy William Paterson University jazz department under the leadership of David Demsey and Rich DeRosa. There she has continued to hone the skills she sampled at NJPAC at a much more intense level. The department provides opportunities that could scarcely be found elsewhere, and has greatly benefited from her experience especially in group interaction in her ensembles couched by Rich Perry, Mulgrew Miller and Armen Donelian, improvisation, and music theory, which she holds to be extremely important to her approach to Jazz. During her time there she recorded a demo album “Too Close”, and has had many successful small-venue performances as well as several performances in the Shea concert hall at William Paterson University. She anticipates graduation later this year.
Tatev is currently looking forward to many exciting developments including her senior recital on April 26th and the YY Sisters first album with her arrangements. This summer she is planning a trip to Armenia, where she will reacquaint herself with her past and expects to develop new musical ideas, as well as to France where she hopes to have frequent performances. Shortly after she returns, she is planning to record her debut album. After a year, Tatev plans to pursue a master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music.
“I’ve been keeping my influences separate, then I realized that Jazz, Armenian and classical musics are part of who I am, so I should use them together, I think that’s what I want to do with my writing. As far as singing, voice is different; it’s more abstract than other instruments since there are no keys or buttons to push. It’s not visual like other instruments are, and you see that with singers, so ultimately what I want is for me to have enough accuracy, enough intelligence, enough theory, enough harmony concept for me to be able to go out of the vocal borders that have been created so far and for me to be able to come smoothly back in when I’m improvising and when I’m singing with the lyrics.
2/9/09- Kent Patton
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