Born: 1952 Primary Instrument: Piano
Harry Tavitian is …the most interesting contemporary Romanian jazzman. (International Herald Tribune - Oct 19, 1990). Born in Constanta, Romania in 1952, from Armenian parents, Tavitian started classical piano at the age of 6. He graduated The Academy of Music in Bucharest. In 1970 he saw bluesman Memphis Slim live in Brasov, Romania. This was a major influence in his future career. After this event, he started singing and playing the blues and soon he made his first steps in jazz. In 1976 he gave up classical music completely for jazz.
The music of Harry Tavitian is characterized by an openness towards multiple influences and a great capacity of synthesis as well. Tavitian himself says: …We are here in Levant and we are part of the world. We are open to world culture and open to spontaneity… (from the interview HARRY TAVITIAN - A CRY FROM THE BALKANS', by Bruce Granath / JAZZ FORUM 102, nr. 5 - 1986).
The Romanian pianist has a style of his own, well defined in East European new jazz, through his incessant artistic experiences. His sound is a melting pot of Thelonious Monk, Mal Waldron, Cecil Taylor, Dollar Brand, folklore of the Balkans, contemporary chamber music, blues, old music. Also, his Armenian roots are obvious. His music has a strong ethnic character. The Romanian spiritual area, where he has developed is a synthesis between the cultural traditions of Orient and Occident. In this area archaic convictions are still preserved and Tavitian's music is full of myth.
Harry Tavitian is concerned about the syncretism of the arts. In his performances he uses elements of instrumental theatre and costumes. He wrote and played live the stage music for Shakespeare's Tempest and Kazantzakis' Melissa, And Vlad Zografi's Orgasm.
Harry Tavitian performed concerts and attended important jazz festivals in România, Russia, Lituania, France, Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Yugoslavia, Poland, Scotland, Hungary, Greece, Turkey, Netherlands, USA, Armenia (as a personal guest of the president of Armenia), Slovakia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Austria.
About Black Sea Orchestra, jazz critic Virgil Mihaiu wrote: … I have never seen a jazz concert in Lisbon, with such a strong and enthusiastic public reaction, with standing ovations, such as the one provoked by the East European musicians of the Black Sea Orchestra… (Curentul / Apr 5, 2000)
Harry Tavitian's first two records (Horizons/1985, LR 124 and Transylvanian Suite/1986, LR 132) are released on Leo Records, London. …Leo, the small English label that distributes jazz from Eastern Europe, has come up with another winner. Pianist Harry Tavitian's ensemble is certainly creative; the music is an adventurous melting of jazz and folk music (there's an excellent treatment of a Romanian wedding song). Fine playing all around… CASHBOX / June 15, 1985 …It's hard to imagine music of this kind being made anywhere but Romania. Beside this strong regional character, the group plays as if it has its own humor, but is not embarrassed when something beautiful happens. Tavitian plays with considerable sensitivity and emotional range, at times bringing to mind early Cecil Taylor, but he is a pianist with a sound of his own… David Lee, CODA / Feb-Mar 1987 Tavitian's third record (East-West Creativ Combinations/1988, ST 7001) was released in Romania, to be distributed in the West only. …East-West Creativ Combinations is a fiery program of instant composing and instrumental theatre… Tavitian divided his self among impassioned piano-playing, with characteristic fast-run ostinati and an even greater tendency towards theatrical expressions. The program ended with performers' parading out of stage in a manner evoking Romanian Christmas procession of 'Walking the Bear'. Given its visual impact, this surely should have been preserved on film. However, I know from the tapes, the very musical act in itself is sure to make a good record… Virgil Mihaiu, JAZZ FORUM / 115 (6 / 1988)
The fourth record of Harry Tavitian (The Creation/1991, ST-EDE 03896) is the first to be released and distributed in Romania. French sociologist Claude Karnoouh wrote about the music on this record: …I was very surprised and even amazed by the duo of pianist Harry Tavitian and drummer Corneliu Stroe. I could listen to an original music that is also full of the main feature of postmodern art, that is the syncretism, which in happy circumstances - and it was such a case - assimilates and integrates in a single work different sources, perfectly mastered. This duo faces with one of the most original (jazz) musics of the moment. After the adventure of Free Jazz, it seemed that jazz didn't have much to say anymore. Or, the two musicians bring into Free Jazz elements of Oriental music, integrating a kind of melodic repetitivness to the harmonic liberty that makes Tavitian's music a remarkable synthesis that surpasses both the African and the Occidental roots. Was this possible here, in Romania, at the gates of the Orient (Tavitian himself is an Armenian from Romania) where everything becomes possible?
Harry Tavitian's fifth record is a CD: There's Always A Hope / 1993, AVA 003. It is a duo with Russian saxophonist Anatoly Vapirov. About the music on this CD, Russian critic Nikolai Dmitriev wrote: …It was a duo of unidentified nationality, consisting of a Russian-born Bulgarian and a Romanian of Armenian origin. It was obviously this lack of narrow national frame-up that brought about an uncommon blend of brilliant sincerity, astute irony and musical artistry in a true folk spirit. Genuine pathos is combined with unexpected grotesque. The spontaneous and open-minded neo-jazzy music of the duo is above all based on folklore - a nonexisting , imaginary folklore, created by the very talent of those two musicians - a really universal music, universal in all respects. But those are not simply folk musicians who are playing all that. Those two guys make free choice of their means of expression and rely not only upon age-old traditions, but upon the new generations as well - upon the avantguarde jazz traditions. They not only rely upon them, but also, while pushing away from there, they develop, they create a tradition of their own, completely within the spirit of avantguarde tradition. About the same CD, Italian poet and jazz writer Vittorino Curci wrote: …I can still hear and feel the sounds and emotions that characterized the performance of Anatoly Vapirov and Harry Tavitian at the 5th edition of Europa Jazz Festival of Noci, Italy. A concert which, according to the public and the critics present, represented one of the most touching highlights of the event. A concert, I should add, where Balkanic inflections and folk tunes were continuously dislocated and recomposed rhythmically, in order to give a shape, in a mass of staccatti, to a music of thousand beginnings. In the intelligent and passionate work of this duo, which already belongs to the history of European improvised music, the pieces of sound tend towards distant aims, ideas and dreams. Vapirov's saxophone creeps with babbling and jerking phrases, while Tavitian's delicate and at the same time powerful pianism encounters it aspiring towards something ineffable, towards the beast-truth that no one will ever capture.
The star of the first evening: Harry Tavitian, already a legend of the Romanian jazz. There is no need to survey what Tavitian did before 1999; after 1999 he created Orient-Express, a nine artists group of different orientations launching on the Romanian market the ethno-jazz based, first, on the development of various folklore sources. Mainly South-East European (Turkish, Bulgarian, Romanian, etc.) but not only (Transylvanian-Central European and Armenian sources weren't neglected by this new Brailoiu-Bartok willing to emphasise on the archaic harmonic richness). Much liveliness and colour, exoticism, the show is part of the performance's direction (including the scenic movement, including picturesque costume design) and pleases to a public willing to receive this genre... ... It is useless to say we liked the performance of Tavitian, we enjoyed seeing and admiring him once-more-and-who-knows-the-number-of-times. Orient Express is a milestone of the maturity of the Constanta-European jazzman, and the feverish research will bring him to the conquest of new musical teritories. Here is Harry Tavitian, the enfant terible of yesterday, the master of Romanian jazz of today.
Observator Cultural, nr. 88, 30.10-05.11.2001. Florian Baiculescu. Bucharest 2001 Jazz Festival. 5 Days of Music.
The May 31st 2002 Paris concert comment:
THAT'S JAZZ Harry Tavitian, one of the best pianists of today's jazz, gave again a sample of his talent, in a unique performance on May 31 in Alfortville, during Jazz For Ville festival... There you have a modern and original artist, a champion of the fusion of the arts. To be continued. Nouvelles d'Armenie (Paris), no.77/July-August 2002 Eugene Chadbourne about Old Balkan Rhapsody CD http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:e6de4j877wae~T1
Harry Tavitian at the Blues Festival in Sighisoara, on the Romanian Television site: http://tvr.ro/webcast/emisiuni.php?k=0&em=POP CULTURA#text Click on [alege] Inregistrarea emisiunii diin 2006 - 06 - 26
Listen a Harry Tavitian and Mihai Iordache (sax) record, at Balkanfever Festival in Viena: 2005.05.03 Levantinischbalkanisch-kaukasische Jazzfantasien: HARRY TAVITIAN & MIHAI IORDACHE (RO/ARM) @ Porgy & Bess