“Basically, there are three things that I do – I play, “each and popularize jazz” – time and then tells Armen Chico Tutunjyan, the honored figure of art of Armenia, associated professor at the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory.
He was captured by the sounds of jazz back in school time. Accompanied by his mother he used to enjoy the concerts given by the Armeniaт State Pop Orchestra led by K. Orbelian and adored watching the way drummer Robert Yeolchyan would perform.
For the first time he tried hand at drumming when being a freshman in the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute (1963). He played in the best amateur bands of those years – “Yunost” (Youth), “Krounk” (Crane). Just like many other Soviet jazzmen he learned from celebrated American musicians’ recordings, yet he praises his first teachers: Marat Simonyan, who taught him the music nuts and bolts; Nikolay Gongarov renown Soviet drummer, who shared his knowledge and drumming tutorials with the young boy; and Arthur Abramyan – double-bass player, who in the 60ies was the leading jazzman of Yerevan.In 1968 at the 1st Armenian Jazz Festival the trio of Arthur Abramyan, Levon Malkhasyan and Armen Tutunjyan was recognized “The best band”, while A. Tutunjyan was recognized “The best drummer”.
In 1969 there establishes a jazz quartet gathering Alexander Zakharyan (sax), Levon Malkhasyan (piano), Yervand Yerznkyan (double-bass), Armen Tutunjyan (drums). This quartet led the Armenian jazz to the first significant success, through becoming laureate at the Kuibyshev Jazz festival in 1970 and taking all the awards for the different nominations. The next year (1971) the same quartet (this time with double-bass player David Gasparov) was recognized the best at the Voronezh Jazz Fest, and Tutunjyan once again was granted “The best drummer” award. Tutunjyan kept on making progress playing in Arthur Abramyan quartet, together with sax player A. Zakharyan and pianist Armen Ter-Tadevosyan.
In 1979 the quartet performed at jazz festival in Tbilisi, and in 1980 in Yaroslavl. In 1983 Armen Tutunjyan performed Armenian jazz playing in jazz-sextet of the Armenian Radio and Television. This sextet would accompany the performances by Datevik Hovanesyan. In 1986 Tutunjyan was invited to the Armenian State Pop Orchestra led by K. Orbelian. Playing in the orchestra he visited many cities in USSR and abroad. In 1992 when Orbelian gave his farewell concerts, Tutunjyan were at the drum set.
New flight of creativity of Armen Tutunjyan coincided with the first years of the establishment of sovereignty of Armenia. In 1992 he gathered young and gifted musicians and created “Chico & Friends” band, which onwards has its steady place on the Armenian jazz stage. “Chico & Friends” is a kind of creative lab “generating” many gifted jazzmen. “Chico & Friends” played and boosted the success of such jazz celebrities of the Republic of Armenia as Vahagn Hayrapetyan, Tigran Peshtmaljian, Arsen Nersisyan, Armen Hyusnunts, Simon Dolmazyan, Yervand Markaryan, Karen Gasparyan.
In 1997 “Chico & Friends” had a successful concert tour to Sweden. From the very beginning “Chico & Friends” has unchangeably participated at all the Festivals in Armenia. The band released 2 CD albums: “The Quartet” (2001) and “To My Friends with Love” (2009). On 27 July 2010 the band recorded “VEM –Session”, the third CD that is currently on its way to release.
Tutunjyan also practices teaching. Over 35 years he trained dozens of drummers.
In 1994 Armen Tutunjyan received professional development grant in Berklee College of Music (Boston, USA) on “Study of training methods of jazz drumming in the USA and their further practicing in Armenia”. A. Tutunjyan can be truly considered the founder of drum-set academic teaching in Armenia. Profound knowledge and experience Armen Tutunjyan gained throughout his life and enriched in the USA made him develop a four-year drum-set curriculum for the Pop and Jazz Department of the Conservatory he teaches in since 1998.
He shares his knowledge in “Rhythm and Movement” – the first-of-its-kind tutorial written in Armenian language, which was published in the end of 2010.
Tutunjyan considers the promotion of jazz continuation of his performing and teaching activities. In 1996 he starts hosting a jazz program on “HAI FM” radio station. His “Jazz time” is on TV since 1998. On 8 February 2008 at the National Music Awards Armen Tutunjyan was granted a special prize for popularization of jazz. Within the scope of grant announced by the US State Department he launched his own new course “History of Armenian Pop and Jazz Music” in the Conservatory.
Today Armen “Chico” Tutunjyan works on “History of Armenian Jazz” and of course, keeps doing what he loves to.
“I played it once, I play it still and I will always play the jazz I felt in love with long ago, a pure, unsophisticated jazz. That’s my musical creed”.