April-1st-2003, 03:04 PM
David Azarian - R.I.P.
Boston-based pianist David Azarian was killed in a traffic accident on Saturday. This story appeared in Monday's Boston Globe
Jazz pianist struck, killed fixing tire on roadside
Musician left Armenia to pursue dream in US
By John McElhenny, Globe Correspondent, 3/31/2003
A jazz pianist who fled the Soviet Union to pursue his musical dreams in America was killed Saturday evening when he was struck by a sport utility vehicle while changing a tire on the side of busy Interstate 93 in Stoneham.
David Azarian, 51, was replacing a driver-side tire on his minivan in the breakdown lane when the SUV, driven by a Swampscott woman, plowed into his car. Azarian's wife and two daughters, ages 4 and 9, witnessed the crash, State Police said.
Azarian, a native of Armenia who came to the United States on a 10-day visa in 1989 and never left, died at the scene.
''Once in a lifetime, we get the opportunity to see something so wonderful, so good that you'll do anything you can to help that person do their art,'' said Manoog Katrielian, 53, a psychologist who met Azarian on a trip to Armenia and later shared his apartment with him in Providence. ''David was a musician's musician.''
State Police said heavy rains had cut visibility shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday when a 2002 Lexus sport utility vehicle driven by Angela Ansara ran into Azarian's 1999 Honda, trapping him beneath the SUV.
No charges had been filed yesterday, but State Police Lieutenant Ronald Sieberg said Ansara, 34, may be charged with motor vehicle homicide, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, failure to stay within marked lanes, and speeding. Ansara did not return a message left with her father yesterday.
Azarian, of Belmont, played regularly in clubs in and around Boston, including the Regattabar in Cambridge, where he last performed on Tuesday. He had performed at some of New York's best-known venues, including Carnegie Hall, Birdland, and the Blue Note, and he taught piano at Berklee College of Music.
John Lockwood, a bass player who had performed with Azarian for a decade, said Azarian's musical style was very original, influenced by his Armenian upbringing and the warm, outgoing persona that made him an easy partner.
''His personality came through in his playing,'' said Lockwood. ''There was a bubble that you'd slide into when you played with him. He was unique.''
Azarian, whose father was a music teacher and reed player, began studying piano in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, at age 7. He won his first prize for piano playing at age 12 and soon discovered American jazz, which was considered taboo in the Cold War-Soviet Union, by listening to Willis Conover's jazz show on Voice of America radio.
In his early 20s, Azarian was admitted to the prestigious Soviet Union Composers' Union. He formed a jazz trio that toured Europe and the Soviet Union, and when the opportunity arose to visit the United States, birthplace of jazz, Azarian jumped at the chance.
In 1989, he came to Cambridge, for what was supposed to be five concerts in 10 days. Instead, a Providence church invited him to play a series of benefits for victims of recent earthquakes in Armenia and San Francisco, so he extended his visa. An Armenian-American lawyer helped him draft papers to make the stay permanent.
It was while living in Providence, staying up every night in Katrielian's apartment composing music on a donated Yamaha keyboard, that Azarian met Vickie Alani, an architect, whom he would eventually marry.
The two moved to Belmont together and started a family. On Saturday night, Alani waited in the family's minivan with the couple's daughters, Christina and Nicole, when Azarian got out to fix the tire. Dennis Azarian, 26, Azarian's son from a previous relationship in Armenia, said his father helped him come to the United States a decade ago. Before Dennis's arrival, the elder Azarian had composed a waltz for him, ''Longing for My Son, Dennis.''
Dennis Azarian said yesterday that witnessing the accident was a brutal blow to his stepmother and two young stepsisters.
''The little one is 4. She doesn't understand, but Christina is 9. She cries. She knows.''
Azarian had released several compact discs, including his best known, ''Stairway to Seventh Heaven,'' and his most recent, ''Hope,'' a compilation of live performances broadcast by WGBH in Boston.
Another CD, ''Living in Jazzland,'' was released a decade after Azarian came to live in America. On his website, Azarian had posted photos of himself with a flurry of American jazz legends, including Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, and Al Jarreau.
''For someone who came from behind the `Iron Curtain,' to see these great musicians, and even more to have the chance to shake their hands and express the love and admiration for their music, is something I would have never imagined possible,'' Azarian wrote on the site. ''These were dreams that came true.''
In addition to his family in Belmont, Mr. Azarian leaves his sister, Parandzaen, his mother, Oktyabrina Mikelian, and his father, Vruir , all of Armenia.
No funeral arrangments had been made last night.
This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 3/31/2003.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
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