Levon Malkhasyan

From Unearthing The Music

Levon Malkhasyan. Photo by Marcus Kwan, sourced from Wikipedia

Levon Malkhasyan (Armenian: Լևոն Մալխասյան; born 1 January 1945), also known as Malkhas, is an Armenian jazz musician, composer and pianist, one of the founders of the Armenian jazz scene, and owner of Malkhas Jazz Club.[1]


Early life

Levon Malkhasyan was born in 1945 in Yerevan. His father, Paruyr, was the director of the sheet rolling factory and his mother, Nina – a Russian language teacher. He had a brother, Robert Malkhasyan (1935–1955) and a sister, Evgenia Malkhasyan (1938–2017).

During his school years, he was the captain of the school basketball team, but despite the fact that no one in his family was musically inclined, he eventually became interested in music, starting to play the piano and accompanying different artists from the age of 15.

Between 1962 and 1967 Levon Malkhasyan studied at the Yerevan Brusov State University of Languages and Social Sciences, majoring in Russian language and literature. Here he led a basketball team as well.[2] During his university years he, along with drummer Armen Tutunjayn (known as Chico) and contrabass player Arthur Abrahamyan, founded a jazz trio named after himself ("Levon Malkhasyan's Trio") which became the first ever jazz trio in Yerevan. The band held small concerts at "Union of Composers" concert hall, the Philharmonic Hall and other venues.[3] The trio, with a slightly different line-up, still exists today.[4] It became a quartet after being joined by saxophonist Alexander Zakaryan.[5]


During the All-Union festival held in 1968 the quartet was awarded the 1st prize.[6] 1970 the Quartet received a Grand Prix in Kuibyshev (now Samara) at the All-Union Festival as well as the prize for "The Best Armenian Arrangement". In addition, Levon Malkashayn shared the "Best Pianist" title with another musician from the and the band won prizes in the "Best Drummer" and "Best Saxophonist" categories.[7]

In 1972, at the All-Union Festival in Yaroslavl, the quartet again took the 1st place and won the first prize in all categories. The program, composed of 7th-century sharakans in a jazz arrangement, was also recognized as the best, and the suite on the theme of ancient Church Songs was awarded the main prize.[8][9] The Malkhasyan Quartet also participated in various festivals in Tbilisi, Donetsk, Moscow etc. In order to earn a living, Levon Malkhasyan often played at various restaurants, such as Akhtamar restaurant in Sevan, Dvin, and Ani Intourist Hotel between 1964 and 1980. In 1980 the era of working in restaurants was over.

Between 1973 and 1980 Levon Malkhasyan played in different bands such as "Krunk", "Tziatzan", "Serpentine" and "CYO (Committee of youth organizations). As a part of "Krunk", together with Aksel Bakunts, he toured all over the USSR. In 1980 Levon Malkhasyan founded the first jazz center at the Henrich Igityan Aesthetic Center, where almost all the famous jazz musicians of that period gathered for jam sessions and concerts. 1985 the first three-day All-Union Jazz Festival was organized by Levon Malkhasyan and held at the Philharmonic Concert hall, in which musicians from 14 cities of the Soviet Union participated. 1986 he organized the "Jazz Panorama" contest-festival which brought together musicians from all over the USSR as well as a big band which performed under the direction of Konstantin Orbelyan. In 1996 Levon Malkhasyan received an invitation from Nushikyan Association to perform at "Aragast" café (the famous Float). Three days later he invited Aksel Bakunts, then Armen Usnunts Quintet, Khachik Sahakyan, Vahagn Hayrapetyan to accompany him. After some time he took over the "Float" cafe and turned it into a Jazz Club.

He then began organizing festivals. In 1998 the five-day "International Jazz Festival", organized by Malkhasyan, took place at the Yerevan Opera Theater. The New York Voices Vocal-instrumental jazz orchestra, jazz veterans from New Orleans and many other bands from CIS countries participated in that festival. In 2000 he organized the next Jazz festival, which had grown in size and featured Chick Corea as a special guest. In 2003 Levon Malkhasyan releases his first CD. In 2008 Levon Malkasyan, in cooperation with "Sharm", organized a number of events dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Armenian Jazz. Within the framework of this one-year-long festival Yerevan hosted a number of world-famous artists such as Al Jarreau, Joe Cocker, George Benson, "Shakatak" Band, Georgiy Garanyan, Toma Katashvili, Dato Japaradze and many others. An event took place every single month and Konstantin Orbelyan's 80 years anniversary was also celebrated that year.

Personal life

In 1964 Levon Malkhasyan married Nina Ter-Ghazaryan – a five-time gold medalist in swimming and a well-known radiographer. Their daughter, Irina Malkhasyan, a composer and a singer, teaches at Yerevan State Conservatory.

Levon Malkhasyan made arrangements of a number of jazz compositions: he's the author of the "Yerevan Jan" waltz featured on the soundtrack of the movie of the same name.

According to the musician, he had three big dreams and each of them came true. The first was to be able to witness famous American jazz musicians in their home country, and in 1990 Levon Malkhasyan traveled to the US where he spent most of his time in different jazz clubs meeting different musicians and seeing them perform live. The second was organizing an international jazz festival in Yerevan with American musicians – a dream that came true multiple times. Finally, the third was to found and own a jazz club, which he achieved in 2006, opening his club, "Malkhas", in Yerevan. Today it has 7 resident-bands and is a favourite of local jazz enthusiasts.[10][11]


In 1999 he was awarded the Movses Khorenatsi Medal of the Republic of Armenia, and in 2003 he was bestowed the title of Honorary Citizen of Yerevan. In 2007 he received the title of Honored Worker of Art of the Republic of Armenia, and in 2008, the Order of the Russian Federation "for the propagation and Armenian jazz abroad". [14] In 2010 he received the Gold Medal of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia, and in 2013 the title of People's Artist of the Republic of Armenia.

He was also awarded the gold medal of the Golden Apricot Film Festival and the Arno Babajanyan gold medal. In 2010 he was recognized as the "RAU Person of the Year" by the Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University.


  1. "Armenia PM, wife attend concert dedicated to jazzman Levon Malkhasyan's 75th anniversary". Armenia: Armenia News. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  2. "Levon Malkhasyan".
  3. "Jazz Trio Levon Malkhasyan". Spotify.
  4. "Armenia Acting PM posts selfie with Levon Malkhasyan".
  5. "Nacht des Monats mit Levon Malkhasyan". Schweizer Monat. 1 December 2015.
  6. "Levon Malkhasyan, about Yerevan jazz and the image of the artist |".
  7. "♫ Malkhas – Levon Malkhasyan. Listen @cdbaby" – via
  8. "Emotional Arturo Sandoval and Levon Malkhasyan's surprise – Opening concert of Yerevan Jazz Fest 2018 (PHOTO / VIDEO)".
  9. "President Serzh Sargsyan congratulates Levon Malkhasyan on his 70th birthday – Congratulatory telegrams – Updates – The President of the Republic of Armenia".
  10. "Malkhas Jazz Club Review | Explore Yerevan Like A Local".
  11. "Malkhas Jazz Club | Yerevan, Armenia Entertainment".
  12. "Improvised Dream: The "Malkhas" style finds a jazz home in Yerevan - Arts and Culture |".
  13. "Malkhas Jazz Club | City Info".
  14. "Լևոն Մալխասյան | Music of Armenia".
  15. "Լևոն Մալխասյանը՝ ՀՀ ժողովրդական արտիստ. "Սա անհատի կոչում չէ, սա ջազին տրված կոչում է"".

Text adapted from Wikipedia