A virtuosic jack of all trades.The Village Voice
The music of guitarist, composer and educator Aram Bajakian has been called “a masterpiece” (fRoots, July 2017), “shape-shifting” (FreeJazzCollective, January 2017), and “astonishing” (Georgia Straight, March 2017).
As an instrumentalist, Bajakian had the privilege of performing alongside Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed during his last two tours in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, Bajakian toured in Diana Krall’s band, performing over 100 concerts with the multiple-Grammy-award-winning singer, along with violinist Stuart Duncan (Yo-Yo Ma’s Goat Rodeo, Robert Plant) and drummers Karriem Riggins (Kanye West, Common, J-Dilla) and Jay Bellerose (Elton John, Rhiannon Giddens). Through these tours and others, Bajakian has had the opportunity to play in many of the world’s greatest venues, including Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, the Acropolis, L’Olympia, as well as the Montreaux, Newport, Northsea, Monterey and Antibes jazz festivals, among others.
Bajakian’s collaboration with his wife, vocalist, actress and ethnomusicologist, Julia Ulehla, entitled Dálava, reimagines folk songs collected over 100 years ago from a single village in Moravia by her great-grandfather. Their performances and two albums have received universal critical acclaim. Dálava’s latest album, The Book of Transfigurations (Songlines, 2017) was listed by the Georgia Straight as one of “50 Albums That Shaped Vancouver” in their May 2017 edition celebrating the magazine’s 50th year in print. Bastiaan Springer, in his August 2017 fRoots review said, “Every now and then an album appears that is so overwhelming and so intense that it is hard to put into any category. Such is the case with The Book Of Transfigurations, the second release by Dálava…Saying that The Book Of Transfigurations is a masterpiece is not an exaggeration.”
Bajakian’s 2014 solo guitar album, Music Inspired by the Color of Pomegranates, an alternate soundtrack to Parajanov’s iconic film, received 4.5 stars from All About Jazz and was featured in the documentary Shepherds in the Cave, which tells the story of the restoration of frescoes in ancient Italian caves. there were flowers also in hell (2014, Sanasar Records), was called “One of the best instrumental rock records of recent years,” by New York Music Daily. Village Voice critic Robert Christgau said of the album, “Every track singular, every track strong. A MINUS.” Released by John Zorn’s Tzadik Label, Aram Bajakian’s Kef, which explores Armenian dance music of the same name, was listed as one of the Best World Music Albums of 2011 by PopMatters.
Bajakian has worked with numerous artists over the years and has been featured on several of composer and saxophonist John Zorn’s projects. Bajakian performs in bassist Shanir Blumenkranz’ (Yo-Yo Ma, Cyro Baptista) band Abraxas, which has recorded two albums of John Zorn’s music: Book of Angels Volume 19, and Psychomagia. Bill Milkowski called their first album a “Twin 6 String assault,” in Downbeat Magazine. A third album of material, entitled Book Beriah: Gevurah, was released in 2018 as part of an 11 CD box set which also featured albums by Bill Frisell, Craig Taborn, Julian Lage and Secret Chiefs 3.
Since 2014, Bajakian has performed in Frank London’s (The Klemzatics) Glass House Orchestra, which recreates the musical culture of Hungarian Jewish communities destroyed by the Holocaust. Their debut record was nominated for three German Critics’ Best of the Year Awards in October 2017.
Bajakian received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he studied with Dr. Yusef Lateef. He holds a Masters Degree in Music Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and Master of Music degree in Music Composition from the University of British Columbia, where he studied electronic music with Dr. Keith Hamel. When not touring, he works as the Music Curator for the Western Front in Vancouver, one of Canada’s leading artist run spaces for art and new music.