• Tigran’s music draws from a wide range of sources—from jazz and Armenian folk music; Bach and French fin de siècle composers; dubstep, thrash metal, and contemporary electronica. His live performances and six studio albums have received enthusiastic approval from the likes of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Brad Mehldau.

    Where his last album, 2013’s Shadow Theatre, featured an extended band with choral sections, strings, and saxes, Mockroot is based around the tight trio of Tigran on piano and vocals, Sam Minaie on bass guitar, and Arthur Hnatek on drums.

    "For me it’s more like an electro-acoustic Armenian rock trio than a regular jazz trio," says Tigran. "Sometimes we sound like a heavy metal band, or a dubstep DJ, or like some late 19th century Armenian composers like Nikoghayos Tigranyan and Komitas, with newer harmonic and rhythmic approaches. It’s all underlined by something that’s very simple, melancholic, and romantic.

  • The album title, Mockroot, touches on a theme that suffuses the album—one of the natural world always triumphing over human complexity. "It is inspired by the photograph on the album cover," he says, "a picture my friend Karen Mirzoyan took of a tree—almost dead—emerging from a lake.

    It was taken in a part of the world where people had deliberately raised the water level to irrigate land. And yet this tree just carried on, defiantly. It’s the idea that nature is constantly mocking humanity. Whatever we impose upon it, nature will always win.

    Technology has taken us into crazy areas, but we need a core of humanity to make sense of the world. "To me this album is kind of sad and melancholic. Even the brainier or more math-oriented songs have a sort of romanticism and longing in them. The songs represent a critique of our world and humans as they are now, which is more materialistic and less spiritual, less humble and thankful, more ignorant and egotistically ‘happy,’ a lot of knowledge, but about what values?

    People are loving, but we love money and ourselves; we are technologically more advanced and ready to ignore love in the name of ‘progress,’ healthier and stronger,

  • more scared and faithless. There are more tractors cultivating the soil and fewer folk songs being cultivated; there are more churches than there are people who still remember how to pray.

    "Mockroot is a sort of longing and nostalgia for a human nature that’s more spiritual, more loving, more together with its roots. There is a sacrifice in it—sacrifice to try to elevate spiritually.

    Tigran Hamasyan was born in 1987 in Gyumri, near Armenia’s border with Turkey. Neither of his parents were musicians (his father was a jeweler, his mother a clothing designer), and Tigran grew up listening to his father’s heavy rock collection (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Queen, Nazareth).

    By the age of three, he was picking out pop melodies on the family piano and being sent to piano lessons; from the age of six he was attending a specialist music conservatory. By 11 he was a classical virtuoso who also sang jazz standards and Beatles tunes with a big band; by 13 he was experimenting with Armenian folk music. At 16, after winning the Montreux Jazz Festival’s piano competition,

  • he relocated with his family to Los Angeles, where he released his debut album, World Passion, at the age of 18. For more than a decade, Tigran Hamasyan has been part of California’s sizeable Armenian-American community, but he has spent much of the last year living in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, with his grandmother.

    "In April I went to Armenia to teach some master classes for a month. It rekindled a yearning I’ve had for many years to return, and I found some great stuff while I was there. It was very inspiring." Armenia looms large throughout Mockroot. The opening track, "To Love," and "To Negate" are both inspired by the Armenian poet Petros Duryan.

    "Lilac" is about a tree that stood in the backyard of Tigran’s childhood home; "Song for Melan and Rafik" is dedicated to his grandparents; "The Apple Orchard in Saghmosavanq" is a romantic song about a monastery near Yerevan. "Kars 1" and "Kars 2 (Wounds of the Centuries)" are written about the town of Kars, the ancestral home of Tigran’s maternal grandparents, a place that became part of Turkey in the years that followed

  • the infamous Ottoman genocide of Armenians during the First World War. Although the subject matter has implicitly political overtones, Tigran avoids making these explicit. "I try not to get sidetracked by politics," he says. "Some people are more interested in using music as a platform for politics.

    I want to be a musician, not a politician. For me, it’s more personal. "Armenian folk songs are sometimes political whether you like it or not—especially given the fact that 90 per cent of Armenian folk music and culture comes from a part of the country that is now in Turkey.

    That culture is still alive, thanks to the great-grandpas and -grandmas that kept and transferred their songs and dances to the younger generation after migrating from old Armenian cities like Van, Mush, Karin (Erzurum) and Sasun to what is now eastern Armenia. So, for me, it’s about learning what they have kept for me and about stories that arise from that situation.

    " Many of the tracks are inspired by poetry, in particular the flowering of Armenian and Russian verse of the late 19th and early 20th century.

  • "I’ve always read a lot of poetry, ever since I was a teenager," he says. "I’d listen to Jan Garbarek or Keith Jarrett for hours, and then immerse myself in Armenian poetry. It will inspire specific feelings. Occasionally I will play the piano while reading a poem, accompanying the words, but usually I will try and recreate the feelings inspired by a certain poems while improvising at the piano.

    " Several of these poems are printed in full as part of the album sleeve notes. However, despite this congruence between words and music, most of Tigran’s songs are wordless.

    "When playing melodies inspired by Armenian folk songs, I sometimes try singing English language lyrics, but English sounds off-putting and unnatural and weird in the songs, while Armenian lyrics sound too direct. Lyrics can be magical, but they can often direct you to a certain place that is quite different from where the music is taking you. By singing wordlessly, you’re not obliging the audience to think about a certain thing—it can be about anything.

    You are relinquishing ownership to the audience, which is exciting."

    —John Lewis
    John writes about music for the Guardian, Uncut and Metro.

  • “Untitled” Hayk-Artyom Yesayan (1978)
    Swarming thoughts come by every day
    Nourishing quotidian worries,
    That feed the mind they trouble
    While love divine is unbeknownst to man.
    Thoughts breed and multiply every day
    Overcast future meanders astray
    The Earth spinning aimlessly away
    Its inhabitants holding on in vain.
    Then everything comes around again,
    Revolutions renewing their sway.
    Standing soft and wet in Law’s way
    Man scratches his head in dismay
    Considering each and every way.
    Redundant in what they crave, needless to say,
    Claiming entitlement, they curse and blame,
    Though salvation never comes through blame,
    If swine are the ones to claim. They’ll splurge and revert to dreaming in vain.
  • Whatever I pen, narrate and proclaim,
    Lay down, elucidate or explain,
    Disillusionment is in store again
    Hence, why bother, I shall refrain.

    “Untitled” Hayk-Artyom Yesayan (1978)
    Lord is love
    Love is life
    Life is infinite
    Infinity opens up
    An opening lets light in
    Light is true and righteous
    What’s right is the law
    Law is structure
    Structure conveys form
    Form is cognizance
    Then again: an idea
    Idea spells birth
    Birth is beginning
  • Preceded by infinity
    Which is the Lord.

    “Untitled” Hayk-Artyom Yesayan (1978)
    Aeons lurk beneath these rocks,
    The cliffs are Time’s scar tissue
    New developments keep fermenting
    Their consequences pushed deep inside.

    “Old Hag” Marina Tsvetayeva (1892–1941)
    Old hag, what a weird thing to say,
    The meaning’s vague, the sound’s surly
    Like a dark conch dinning away
    Whispering to a rosy ear so surely.
    The ultimate inscrutable inside,
    Projecting moments on a screen
    Exhaling time unamplified,
    The ocean breathing through the scene.
  • “Untitled” Iosif Brodsky (1940–1996)
    Days are running above
    like rain clouds over the wood;
    a pallid herd, cluttered above
    the back of the forest’s hood.
    Motionless over the creek
    no moos or cowbells heard,
    they lean heavy and bleak
    on the corral fence of the herd.
    The horizon on the knoll
    offers no hint of escape.
    And recurrent, the dawn
    shreds the past, agape.
    Only the eve of the day
    flashing its laissez-passer
    glides hastily away
    over the tillage and nests.

    New Stanzas to Augusta by Iosif Brodsky,
    published by Ardis, 1983.
  • “To Love” Petros Durian (1851–1872)
    A cluster of glances, a garland of smiles,
    A crucible of words entranced my heart.
    I wished to isolate myself, in silence
    To love blossoms and thickets hid,
    To love lightnings in the azure sky,
    Dew in the morning, mist at dusk,
    To read the black lines of my fortune,
    Ponder, plummet, be entranced by its lie.
    I wished sole and lonely
    With the limpid rill to share my heart,
    That has no trace of recollection,
    When to its heart’s floor I dive
    And find myself pallid, lucid there.
    Whole secret is its numberless waves.
    I heard a heart’s ether of heartbeats
    That sighed “If you want a heart, come to me!”
    I wanted to love the zephyr alone
    That flies from heaven and breaks apart:
  • It would never want to wound,
    It is a spirit whose mystery is fragrance,
    Knowing but to caress a myriad of dreams,
    Reminding the downcast of the delicate scent of the sky.
    I wanted with my harp, pale
    But to love, here, here to worship,
    To embrace but my harp
    And see in it a loving thing
    And to my taste tune its strings
    And lovingly share with it my heart.
    Softly she came close and said
    “A cold heart is your harp and your love is pain!”
    My soul in frenzy beat its wings,
    Recognizing her as beauty, as a flame,
    Her heart as undefiled as that stream
    And sinless as the strengthless breeze,
    Faithful as my harp.
    And to life’s loneliness it bade farewell.
    A cluster of glances, a garland of smiles,
  • A crucible of words entranced my heart.

    “To Negate” Petros Durian (1851–1872)
    A garland of frowns, a cluster of lightning
    And a hell of curses pierced my little soul.
    I wished to worship her,
    To love her smiles, that are an endless blossom,
    To love her dark eyes’ stars
    And that meditation that overshadows
    Her shining brow – the cloud
    That rouges the moon of her face.
    A night of lamentation, an abyss of sighs
    Agitated her soul, shook her sides.
    I wished ever to be by her side,
    To listen to the pounding of her heart,
    To breathe in, drink her soul,
    And but to touch the snowy gleam
    Of tresses tumbling, waves
    Cresting on her nape.
  • I heard an ocean of complaint.
    I wished to be a harp
    Exhaling sighs beneath her hand,
    To be a vignette moving
    And charmed within the depths of her soul,
    To forget myself, of only her to think –
    One ray of which ignited a dream.
    A thunder of rebuke shook my soul:
    She cried, “You cannot love me!”
    In vain before her my heart dissolved in smoke –
    The heart on the desert its incense to spend! –
    I displayed my brow to her, its color drained,
    The blear upon my eye, my hollowed breast.
    In vain did my lips quiver
    And whisper their love to her cheek.
    She abandoned my, and said
    “I have loved you enough. Good bye.”
    The clouds of my thoughts roared thunder
  • And their lightning bolts stabbed my soul.
    The dreams within me turned to ashes,
    My fortune laughed down from above.
    All that did not mock me was a hole –
    It was the mute shaft of my grave.
    A garland of frowns, a cluster of lightning
    And a hell of curses pierced my little soul…

    Bosphorus Nights: The Complete Lyric Poems of Bedros Tourian by James R. Russell, published by the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University, 2006. Used by permission.

    Poems by Hayk-Artyom Yesayan, Marina Tsvetayeva, Iosif Brodsky Translation © 2014 Artashes Emin.
    Poems by Petros Durian Translation © 2006 James R. Russell.
  • “To Love” and “To Negate” are musical cantos dedicated to the memory of Petros Durian (1851-1872).
Tigran

“A-may-zing! Now, Tigran, you are my teacher”
— Herbie Hancock,
onstage Festival Orleans Jazz

“A mature and great and rich and deep artist“
— Chick Corea, August 2011

“He plays piano like a raga, the next Keith Jarrett“
— Trilok Gurtu, Theatre Du Chatelet March 2011

“Tigran really grabbed me, in this really cool way“
— Brad Mehldau, NY Times 2011

"Where so much contemporary jazz can be a dreary display of muscle memory, Tigran has found a way to keep improvisation fresh and lyrical. Other jazz musicians would be wise to take note."
— The Guardian

"Tigran stands out for his burning intensity"
— The Telegraph

"Loving the Tigran album on Verve - a big talent..."
— Gilles Peterson, live session

"With a firm yet delicate touch, Tigran lets the melody sing"
— NPR

"Brilliant musician"
— Later with Jools Holland

"His touch is sublime"
— Downbeat

“Tigran has found a way to keep improvisation fresh and lyrical. Other jazz musicians would be wise to take note.”
— Guardian

“There are many brilliant and perfectly finished young jazz pianists around, but Hamasyan stands out because he has something important and urgent to say.”
— Daily Telegraph

Although trained as a classical and jazz musician, Tigran Hamasyan draws on a wide range of influences, including Armenian folk music, rock, electronica, poetry, and more, In the past decade, with the release of four critically acclaimed albums and an unceasing touring schedule, he has built up a dedicated international following, as well as accolades from the likes of Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Brad Mehldau. In the words of the Guardian, Hamasyan ‘is guided by one of [mentor and fan Herbie Hancock’s] most enduring lessons: it's possible to be a multi-stylistic jazz virtuoso and a groove-powered hitmaker simultaneously and hugely enjoy all of it.’ The Times said of his most recent release, 2013’s Shadow Theater, ‘Armenian folk, electronic loops, heavenly voices and indie rock energy vie with Hamasyan’s rippling piano to create a dramatic, deeply melodic music unlike anything else you’ll hear this year.’

Hamasyan was born in Armenia in 1987, before relocating with his family to Los Angeles in 2003. He currently resides in Erevan, Armenia. He began playing piano at the age of three, and started performing in festivals and competitions when he was 11 years old, winning the Montreux Jazz Festival’s piano competition in 2003. He released his debut album, World Passion, at the age of 18 in 2006. That same year he won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. Subsequent albums include New Era (2008), Red Hail (2009), and A Fable (2011), for which he was awarded a Victoires de la Musique (the equivalent of a Grammy Award in France). Most recently he won the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Contemporary Music in 2013.

His first album for Universal recorded in Paris on solo piano, "A Fable", was released in 2011. It sold impressively well for an instrumental album with 30,000 units. It received praises throughout including winning a French Grammy award in 2011. Tigran's rising stature in music garners notice globally wherever he has been able to be heard.

Tigran truly has a unique profile. Not only can he display dazzling piano dexterity, but also an undeniably profound sense of composition. He's equally at ease with jazz, classical music, Armenian popular repertoire, rock, heavy metal, or avant-garde, Armenian sacred music. Tigran Hamasyan’s Nonesuch Records debut album, Mockroot, will be released in February 2015. Hamasyan’s music draws from a wide range of sources—from jazz and Armenian folk music; Bach and French fin de siècle composers; dubstep, thrash metal, and contemporary electronica. His live performances and six studio albums have received enthusiastic approval from the likes of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Brad Mehldau.

Where his last album, 2013’s Shadow Theatre, featured an extended band with choral sections, strings, and saxes, Mockroot is based around the tight trio of Hamasyan on piano and vocals, Sam Minaie on bass guitar, and Arthur Hnatek on drums.

Tigran’ second project for the year of 2015 is very special - It features Hamasyan on piano and the Yerevan state chamber choir directed by Harutyun Topikyan. The new project, named “Luys i Luso” which will be released by the record label ECM in Autumn 2015, is Tigran’s uniquely fresh interpretation of Armenian sacred music from 5th to 19th centuries, and includes compositions by Mesrop Mashtots, Grigor Naregatsi, Nerses Shnorhali, Mkhitar Ayrivanetsi, Khachatur Taronetsi, Makar Yekmalyan and Komitas – all of them arranged for piano and voices by Tigran himself. Hamasyan and the choir will be touring extensively with “Luys i Luso” project starting March 2015.

MOCKROOT MUSICIANS • Tigran Hamasyan – piano, voice, keyboards, synths, sound effects • Sam Minaie – electric bass Arthur Hnatek, drums & live electronics • Gayanée Movsisyan – voice on track 5 • "Song for Melan & Rafik" features: Areni Agbabian – vocals • Ben Wendel – saxophones • Chris Tordini – bass • Nate Wood – drums
PRODUCTION CREDITS • Recorded May 2014 by Antoine Gaillet at Studio de Meudon, Meudon, France • Assistant Engineer: Clément Gariel • Mixed by Antoine Gaillet at Studio Goo, Paris, France • Mastered by Nate Wood • All music composed by Tigran Hamasyan, except for “Kars 1” and “Kars 2” (Traditional Armenian/Tigran Hamasyan) • Photography by Karen Mirzoyan • Album Artwork & Design by Vahram Muradyan • Website developed by Helix