Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Adieu: Vardan Ovsepian leaving Newburyport

Vardan Ovsepian is off to southern California. Not to bask in cool afterglow of the completely undeserved victory of the Los Angeles Lakers. He's not even quite sure who the Lakers are. The Armenia-born musician follows only one sport: What he calls football, something that makes most people in this country yawn — or would, if we thought about it at all. This fact was driven home yet again this weekend, when the jazz pianist found himself running all over Newburyport trying to find someplace, any place, that had the qualifying matches for the World Cup on the tube — with no luck, of course. "I was so mad," says the Berklee-trained pianist and arranger. "I felt like I was in the wrong place, maybe the wrong continent." But the bad news in all this is not our totally justified attitude toward soccer. (Sorry, Vardan.) It’s that Ovsepian doesn't have a television in his home. Or a landline, or much of anything, for that matter. That’s because he’s got a one-way ticket: The trip is permanent.

The reason is partly personal, but mostly professional: He’s been promising his parents and sister that he would make more time in his life for them. They live in Los Angeles, and Ovsepian, the bad son and brother, only makes it out there about once a year — for a week. He’s seen them a little more this past year, since he’s been collaborating with ex-Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine, who is based out left. He’s penciled-in a year for family, teaching and checking out the local scene. It could be longer — depends on how it plays out, so to speak. But the plan calls for him to pull up musical stakes again for the Big Apple. And, family aside, that’s what the move is about: location, location, location. “I love Newburyport, but when I look back I see at one project after another that I couldn’t do because I was so far from New York,” he says. “It’s definitely a career move.”

Ovsepian, who also has a fall tour of Estonia (where he studied in the 1990s) in the works, moved to Newburyport after taking a teaching job at The Musical Suite, in 2000. He has performed with artists such as George Garzone, Mick Goodrick and Tim Miller, and has released four jazz albums with the Barcelona-based Fresh Sound- New Talent label since his 2001 solo piano debut, "Sketch Book." In 2006, he independently released VOCE, the Vardan Ovsepian Chamber Ensemble, an intriguing disc that combined jazz and art songs with a chamber music sensibility, after Fresh Sounds decided it was a little too far outside its comfort zone. He tested the Cali-Cali waters last October, when he and long-time bassist Joshua Davis teamed up with Erskine and Los Angeles singer Takako Uemura for a performance at the Pasadena Jazz Institute, and followed that up in April by playing the sessions for Uemura’s still unreleased album.

Ovsepian will leave in July. He’s lived in Armenia, Estonia, Finland and the United States, but says the new move be a bit of a culture shock — not the California part, but the vast-urban-jungle-that-is-Los-Angeles part. “The city is not the favorite place,” says Ovsepian. “It will be difficult at first, but I’ll focus on my thing, the music thing, and try to get out of LA when I can — do some hiking, whatever. I’ll check out the scene and see what comes next.”

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1 comment:

  1. Sorry to see Vardan go. He's a great musician. We'll miss the talent. Ron