ANTWERP, Belgium — “It was a really cool experience to work with him and perform, especially after a hard isolating winter!” That is how Alexander Baboian described a musical event he participated in, together with colleagues in Belgium and a special guest from Africa. The event was a concert on March 22 at a jazz club called De Singer, in Rijkevorsel, not far from Antwerp. And the special guest was a “unique and outstanding jazz guitarist from West Africa,” Lionel Loueke.
Alexander Baboian is an Armenian-American jazz guitarist and composer from Belmont, Mass., currently studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp. As part of its “Breathing Project,” a program launched 10 years ago, the Conservatory has provided artistic and logistical support for jazz students, and in this context, invites international artists to come and coach students.
The renowned guitarist Lionel Loueke was born in 1973 in Benin and studied in France as well as in the US at the Berklee College of Music in Boston (where Baboian’s father, John Baboian has long taught guitar) and the Thelonious Monk Institute. He has worked with major jazz artists such as Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard and is known for a unique blend of African and Jazz elements in his music. His mentor, Herbie Hancock, called him “a musical painter.” A group of students in Antwerp were invited to prepare a set of his original compositions under his direction, in a series of master classes. After studying and rehearsing intensively for a week with him, they went on stage together and performed in concert.
The featured composer, vocalist and guitarist Lionel Loueke was joined by Milan Verbist on the piano, Jef Manderveld, Double Bass, Drummer Simon Van Brandt, Trumpeter Cedric de Lat and guitarist Alexander Baboian.
From Boston to Berlin … and Yerevan
Alexander Baboian was born in Boston, into a 3rd/4th generation family. His father and grandfather introduced him to the world of music at an early age, and he completed his undergraduate studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He majored in performance as a guitarist there, focusing mainly on Jazz and developing as an instrumentalist. He graduated Magna Cum Laude, and received the Guitar Department Achievement Award twice.