Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Chris Zakian
Tel: (212) 686-0710
E-mail: [email protected]
January 27, 2014
Jazz Star Datevik Dazzles in Concert at Diocesan Center
By Florence Avakian
It was a performance to remember and relish, as renowned jazz artist Datevik
Hovanesian thrilled the audience gathered for her concert sponsored by St.
Vartan Armenian Cathedral. More than 400 people filled Haik and Alice
Kavookjian Auditorium to listen to Armenia’s “First Lady of Jazz” on Friday
evening, January 17.
Welcoming the crowd, Angela Kazarian briefly detailed the background of the
singer, who also is a well-known educator, recording artist, and arranger
specializing in ethnic and folk music. As the band members-master musicians
Bob Albanese on piano, Joe Fitzgerald on bass, and David Meade on
drums-started the evening with a catchy Brazilian Bossa Nova number, the
large audience was already moving to the beat.
Pianist Bob Albanese, in his introduction, paid tribute to the universal
language of music, and called Datevik, “a profound, inimitable artist who
changes you,” as she entered the stage to thunderous applause. Acknowledging
the warm reception, she emotionally announced: “I’m going to share my heart
to the very last drop”-which brought on another ovation.
Unique interpreter of Armenian folk songs
Renowned for her unique way of melding Armenian folk songs with jazz,
Datevik offered a group of memorable ethno-jazz numbers, including Sayat
Nova’s reflective “Oosdi goo kas,” the caressing “Hovarek,” and the lilting
“Es aroon” (“The Creek”). In a duet with drummer David Meade, she sang a
rousing Armenian dance song that Meade called “Afro-Armenian,” which had the
audience moving in time to the distinctive rhythms.
In addition to the ethno-jazz numbers, Datevik sang Bossa Nova compositions
by the great Antonio Carlos Jobim, and the popular standard “It Don’t Mean a
Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” In a duet with the pianist, she
performed one of her signature songs, the pensive and romantic “You Must
Believe in Spring,” which brought down the house. For her last number,
“Arevelyan bar,” her body movements flowed to the nuances of the music, and
the audience clapped in unison to the beat.
With the audience cheering and clapping rhythmically for several minutes,
she presented an encore, “Chem gernah khaghah,” to a standing ovation
lasting several minutes.
At times during her performance, her tonal inflections resembled orchestral
instruments. Datevik showed herself to be a seasoned professional in every
sense, with seamless phrasing and timing, singing in perfect harmony with
her masterful band.
Bernard and Claudia Perreto, two of many non-Armenians in the audience,
commented: “It was an unforgettable musical experience. Datevik’s persona
exudes vibrant, intoxicatingly rhythmic energy. Her vocal acuity and scat
singing are sublime, and lend perfectly to her ethnic jazz style. Above all,
it’s Datevik’s love of music that sent us home feeling that she gave us a
memorable musical gift.”
Another attendee gushed: “A recording of the show would be worth having for
A musical family
Born in Yerevan, Datevik comes from a family of musicians. Her mother
Ophelia Hambartsumian is a legendary master of folk songs. Her father Norair
Hovanesian is a renowned kemancha player. And her elder brother Hovanes is a
classical violinist and devotee of jazz.
“He was always listening to Brazilian jazz tunes, which were hits at the
time,” she said in a conversation with this writer. “Bossa Nova moved me. It
was a big challenge for me since I like dealing with difficulties. In fact,
Armenia has always been big on jazz, with Armenia’s first jazz band
performing in 1930,” she said.
Making her first recording at age 11 with Harold Arlen’s “It’s Only a Paper
Moon,” Datevik continued her musical education in conducting, and at age 19
went on performance tours in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the U.S.-always
making sure that she was recognized as an Armenian.
“It didn’t take long for me to feel and understand that jazz music would
become my lifelong companion,” she said.
“First Lady of Jazz”
By 1979, she had earned the title of “First Lady of Jazz in the Soviet
Union,” a title she kept for nine years. Coming to America to expand her
knowledge of jazz, and to work on creating her unique style of Armenian
ethnic jazz, Datevik forged an illustrious career, becoming a celebrated
Collaborating with Larry Willis, she made her first U.S. recording, “Ballads
from the Black Sea.” In the liner notes Datevik remarked: “The group of
songs on this CD are an eruption of my soul, caused by my cup filling up
drop by drop, and finally running over. Although I am a jazz singer, I have
not forgotten or become detached from my Armenian roots for one minute. The
Armenian folk song has always been a major influence on me.” In fact, it was
Datevik who introduced Armenian folk music to the great jazz pianist Armen
Donelian, with whom she often performs.
Datevik’s impressive background includes five solo albums, performances in
the most celebrated concert halls in more than 30 countries on every
continent, with accolades pouring forth in the most prestigious American and
international newspapers and magazines.
Pierre Sprey, president of Mapleshade Record Productions, has called Datevik
“a rich new jazz voice of superb musicianship-earthy and passionate and
swinging-which proves that soul and jazz know no boundaries.”
The legendary jazz producer to the world’s jazz greats, who produced
Datevik’s “Listen to My Heart” compact disc, has called her the “finest
voice I’ve heard in a quarter of a century.” And famed French-Armenian
composer and pianist Michel Le Grande has said: “Listen to the heart of
Armenia. Listen to Datevik.”
Photos attached: Datevik Hovanesian performs at the Diocesan Center.