Primary Instrument: Guitar
Contemporary jazz with world beat overtones aptly describes the music of Canadian/Armenian multi-instrumentalist/composer Levon Ichkhanian. A third generation musician and artist of great versatility, Levon is proficient on the fretted and fretless guitars,oud, bouzouki and banjitar. Levon's musical odyssey first took shape in Lebanon.
This is how he describes it: I had several monumental experiences growing up which had a rich influence on me culturally and musically. My Dad exposed me to jazz and continental music letting me sit in during his band rehearsal, and as the musical director for shows, the family would travel with him to places like Yemen, Jordan and Cyprus.
Classical and flamenco guitar music were introduced to me by my Uncles Joseph and Jaques. Joseph would often host gatherings filled with musicians, dancers and painters celebrating their art.
I also have vivid memories of spending summer trips with my family to the Northern part of Lebanon. At night there would be parties filled with traditional Armenian and popular Arabic music (Adiss and Fairuz were the favorites), dancing and lots of food that went on until the small hours of the night.
These experiences have influenced me profoundly in my music and in my person, as I continue to further explore the future
He studied classical guitar under the direction of his uncle, Professor Joseph Ichkhanian. At the age of twelve, his family immigrated to Canada. One year later, he gravitated to the electric guitar and began his professional performing career, playing in a band with his jazz pianist father Edouard. Levon’s first professional gig was at the age of 13 with Adiss, the pioneer modern Armenian singer).
Levon's talent was sufficiently recognized throughout his formative years by various awards, most notably by the Canadian All Star Jazz Award received at the age of sixteen. Private studies with many different teachers followed suit, as did several scholarships, in particular one bestowed by the Ontario Arts Council, granting him the opportunity to attend workshops at the University of Toronto. Later, Levon had the opportunity to study with world renowned musicians Pat Martino, Jim Hall Steve Khan and Simon Shaheen.
Years of study and practical experience behind him, Levon shares his knowledge conducting World / Jazz Improvisation clinics, and has published music articles in Guitar Player and Canadian Musician magazines, to name a few.
Levon has toured throughout Canada, the Middle East, Brazil and the United States where he has played in clubs, concert halls and at international festivals, such as Peter Gabriel's WOMAD, MIDEM (Cannes), Chet Atkins Musicians Days Concerts (Nashville) and the Montreal Jazz Festival. He has performed with Mark Egan, Danny Gottleib and Muriel Anderson, along side Liona Boyd, and was featured in PizzaExpress' (London, England) Guitar Masters Series, which included Birelli Lagrene, Larry Coryell and Martin Taylor. He has toured throughout North America and Europe with Peter Murphy (former frontman of the band Bauhaus). Upon returning from A.R. Rahman's 3-D World Tour (with featured artists Udit Narayan, Siva Mani, Shankar Mahadevan, Alka Yagnic, Daler Mehndi and Hariharan) Levon is playing in the Toronto stage production of The Lord of the Rings orchestra.
Levon's extensive travels and love of global music have encouraged him to share the stage with prominent artists from many different countries, including Lebanon, Armenia, Brazil, Greece, India, Israel, South America and Iran. A recipient of the Governor General of Canada's acknowledgment for musical excellence, Levon has been recognized as a musical ambassador to Canada.
His career as a session guitarist has provided him with recording opportunities for a wide variety of musical situations. He co-led a CD Kick-n' Jazz, with master drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie (Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, George Benson, Dizzy Gillespie, Jeff Beck), has played on JUNO nominated projects, and recorded with producer/composer Kenni Hairston (Vanessa Williams, Cyndi Lauper, Freddie Jackson, Cameo), and recently recorded with Jolly Mukherjee for singer/songwriter Hariharan from India. Levon is a featured guest on the CDs of the Toronto Tabla Ensemble The Montuno Police and Samba Squad (a thirty member percussion group).
Levon has also branched out into the film world, scoring and performing all instruments to the soundtrack of acclaimed Canadian filmmaker, Atom Egoyan's Looking for Nothing. His guitar playing is featured on the soundtracks for films You Can't Beat a Woman (by Gail Singer) and the Canadian Film Centre's Hockey Game. He has appeared on Bet on Jazz (the 24 Hour Jazz Station) and has been featured on the CBC, TNN, TVO, CITY TV and Global Television.With this wealth of experience, the decision to record a CD of his own was inevitable. His debut, after hours, blends Armenian/Middle Eastern melodies with contemporary jazz, featuring instruments from around the world, including the doudouk (Armenian wind instrument), tabla, bouzouki, and accordion. Featured musicians include Grammy award winners world renown artists John Patitucci (bass) and Paquito D'Rivera (sax/clarinet). Distributed by Mediterrano Productions, after hours was an Armenian Music Award nominee for Best Jazz Album, and reached #1 Indie and Top 10 Jazz on HMV Charts.
Levon’s follow up C.D. “Travels” winner of the best in jazz/fusion category 2002 Armenian Music Awards is a collection of Levon’s compositions encompassing styles from Middle Eastern to Brazilian grooves and melodies, and features Alain Caron on fretless bass and Ernie Tollar on Ney and Bansuri flutes. Levon is putting the finishing touches on his next C.D. which will feature him playing a multitude of ethnic stringed instruments in a variety of group settings.
Travels is a real tour de force - Levon's most ambitious album yet. --MUZIK ETC
Travels is a worthwhile listen for any musician out there. Featuring contributions from heavyweights such as Alain Caron and Wilson Laurencin, the album blends many styles seamlessly together for an enjoyable listen. --CANADIAN MUSICIAN MAGAZINE
Guitarist Levon Ichkhanian's Armenian Heritage makes his melding of jazz and world music seam natural... a fabulous player. --WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
After Hours is one of the most original efforts of the year. --JAZZTIMES
The more one listens to this CD, the more one realizes how much there is to admire about Ichkhanian. --ALL MUSIC GUIDE
"Levon's workshops were excellent. He inspires creativity and dedication to students and he does so by example. We thoroughly enjoyed it." Mark Spielman Department Head Selkirk College, Nelson BC
Levon brings his wealth of knowledge covering a span of over 25 years of professional experience in performance, touring, producing, recording and composing to his masterclasses. Levon is available for Clinics, Master Classes, Workshops & Residencies - One on One, Small to Large Ensembles. Formats are for the young student to the emerging and professional artists.
Harmony and Analysis
World Stringed Instruments