"For as long as I can remember there was always music in our house while I was growing up. One of my brothers introduced me to the Big Band sound at an early age and the other introduced me to rock & roll. My sister plays classical piano and my parents always had Armenian and Arabic music playing on the stereo. I joined my uncle's Armenian band at eleven as the 'piano man,' " remembers composer/keyboardist/producer, Armen Chakmakian.
A prodigy with a gift for playing by ear, Armen's musical education was formidable. A native of Glendale, California, he attended Berklee College of Music, UCLA and USC where he studied the "History of Armenian Music". Also, he studied jazz with John Novello, a world acclaimed music educator, and learned improvisation from keyboardist, Chuck Wild of Missing Persons fame. Soon, he found himself embarking on a successful career in Hollywood performing, composing and arranging for singer/songwriters with former Rick James' Stone City Band members, Richard and Lorenzo Shaw.
Next up, Chakmakian formed his own jazz/fusion ensemble whose members graduated to stellar careers playing for hit makers Shadowfax, Strunz & Farah, Manu Dibango, Jon Anderson and Kitaro.
In 1991, the break of a lifetime occurred when Armen joined the Grammy-Award winning band, Shadowfax as keyboardist. The following year, the album Esperanto co-written by Chakmakian was nominated for a Grammy as Best New Age Album of 1992. Recording, co-writing and touring with Shadowfax over the next five years helped shape his signature keyboard stylings.
1998 was the year Armen founded TruArt Records. Soon after, he released his debut solo album "Ceremonies" to rave reviews along with topping the radio charts by debuting at #1 on New Age/World radio (NAV Top 50). Aside from being a solo artist, Armen enjoys playing in other groups and is currently performing with the 35-year old Aman Folk Ensemble.
Ceremonies blends Armenian, Arabic, contemporary jazz and hypnotic world rhythms with unforgettable melodies into a signature sound that can be ultimately described as New World Jazz. The TruArt Records' release features 10 original compositions which blend Armen's passionate instrumental piano and synthesizer arrangements with exotic percussion performed by a gathering of all-stars.
Among the many luminaries joining the project are Alex de Grassi who guests on acoustic guitar and symp-guitar, Djivan Gasparyan on duduk, zurna and vocal, John Bilezikjian on oud, Doug Lunn on bass, and former Shadowfax band mates, Ramon Yslas on cajon, pandiero and various percussion, Stu Nevitt on drums, Nigerian metal shakers and Ethiopian dance rattles, and Andy Abad on acoustic guitar and tres, just to mention a few.
Armen adds, "There is a wonderful synergy happening with the musicians playing on Ceremonies. In ancient times, people came together in communities to celebrate their connection to each other and to the world at large. I produced this album to give the listener a experience that would tap into the primordial chord resonating within each of us. No matter where you are on the spiral of life, one of these tunes will speak to you."
Most recently, his southern rock tune "Long Way Down," can be heard in Oscar nominated film "Tumbleweeds," and appears on the soundtrack along with music legends Johnny Cash, Emmy Lou Harris, Lyle Lovit, and Buck Owens and other music biz legends. Armen also collaborated on the composition and performance of "Above the Sky," a Native American Flute and piano piece on Golana's album Feather on the Wind which entered the NAV radio charts at #10!
Armen's follow-up to Ceremonies is due out in February 2001.