Armen Nalbandian – biography, fact, career, awards, net worth and life story

IntroAmerican musician
Is Musician 
Jazz musician 
From United States of America 
Type Music 
Birth 6 April 1978
Age:42 years

Armen Nalbandian (born April 6, 1978 in Manchester, England) is a jazz pianist, composer, author, and activist from Los Angeles, California, known for his multidisciplinary collaborations in visual and fine art.


In addition to the piano, Nalbandian has been known to perform on the prepared Fender Rhodes mechanical piano, and contributes to produce jazz, improvised and experimental music in California. Nalbandian is the composer of over 1100 works in addition to having led more than 22 different ensembles over the past decade. Nalbandian’s compositions have included music for his trio, string quartets, orchestral music, music for theater, Armenian folk music, and “game pieces”. His primary ensemble is the Armen Nalbandian Trio. From 2004 to 2008, Nalbandian served as the Music Director/Artist-in-Residence of the Fresno Art Museum, Artistic Director of Jazz @ the F.A.M. and curator of the Rhythms of Art. Nalbandian concluded his artistic residency at the Fresno Art Museum by performing a solo piano program of composer John Zorn’s Masada music. Nalbandian is also the Artistic Director of the F.O.R.M. (Festival of Resurrected Music). Nalbandian credits Thelonious Monk as his primary influence. Nalbandian is a protegee of pianist John Hicks and has performed with Billy Higgins and Han Bennink. Nalbandian is the founder of Blacksmith Brother Music. In 2008, Nalbandian was named as a finalist in the 2008 Gilles Peterson Worldwide Talent Search. Armen Nalbandian returned to performance on January 20, 2009, as Music Director for the Day One Event, celebrating the inauguration of Barack Obama and a few weeks later in a tribute to Hip Hop producer J Dilla in a benefit for Jay Dee’s mother, Ma Dukes, at which Nalbandian was joined by rapper Fashawn for the performance of Common’s “The Light”. Nalbandian and Fashawn collaborated again in March 2010 for a tribute to the Notorious B.I.G. In September 2009, Nalbandian appeared in the play ‘Semblance: Notes from the Promised Land’ written by Devoya Mayo. The final act of the play featured a soliloquy written and performed by Nalbandian.


Released in March 2006, Armen was Nalbandian’s debut album as a leader and the first recording featuring the Armen Nalbandian Trio. The recording features Nalbandian on piano, and contains five original compositions by Nalbandian, and five by other composers including the rarely performed Thelonious Monk composition “Oska T”, the George Gershwin ballad “He Loves & She Loves”, and the traditional spiritual “This Train”.

Manchester Born

Manchester Born was released in November 2007 and features The Armen Nalbandian Trio. This was Armen Nalbandian’s debut recording on the Fender Rhodes Mechanical Piano. The recording consists of 10 original compositions by Nalbandian and is dedicated to John Hicks.

Young Kings Get Their Heads Cut Off

Armen Nalbandian’s first solo recording was named after a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat and features Nalbandian on the “prepared” Fender Rhodes. The recording was made by Nalbandian performing primarily on the inside of the Fender Rhodes, treating it like a percussion instrument, manipulating the hammers with drum cymbals, snare drum heads, wrenches, mallets, and keys. Nalbandian also employed an analog delay pedal and a wah-wah pedal. The recording is completely improvised with the exception of the composition “Blues for Steve Lacy”, which was composed by trumpeter Dave Douglas.

To Repel Ghosts

To Repel Ghosts is an experimental electronic production and live instrumentation album comprising 11 compositions by Nalbandian. The album is Nalbandian’s second recording named after the work of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. To Repel Ghosts was Nalbandian’s first digital-only album, released exclusively on the artist’s website in its first year. Nalbandian’s album, Tirez Sur Le Pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player), was released 9 months prior and features a trio of compositions that also appear on To Repel Ghosts.

Coup de Grace and Quiet as it’s Kept

On August 23, 2011, Nalbandian released two distinctly different albums. The first, Coup de Grace, is a live recording featuring Nalbandian on piano and drummer Han Bennink in an improvised duet setting. In both concept and art direction, Coup de Grace references Peter Brötzmann’s 1968 album, Machine Gun; which also features Han Bennink.

Quiet as it’s Kept, is a studio recording featuring Nalbandian in a trio setting playing the Fender Rhodes with Eric Revis on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. The trio recording contains first takes of solely original compositions by Nalbandian.

Surrounded by Snakes

On March 15, 2013, he released his 8th album, Surrounded by Snakes, a 13 song album consisting of original compositions that feature him in an electronic setting with improvised solos. Nalbandian is the sole producer and instrumentalist on the album. The album’s theme of betrayal is highlighted by the release date coinciding with the “Ides of March”, from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The album artwork was designed by Joshua Asante of the Arkansas blues bands Velvet Kente and Amasa Hines.

Time Waits

Armen Nalbandian released his first solo piano album (his 9th album), Time Waits, on May 23, 2014. It consists of 8 original compositions by Nalbandian including a reworking of “Conflicted” from his album Manchester Born. The additional material includes “I Get Along Without You Very Well” written by Hoagy Carmichael and popularized by Frank Sinatra, “Ugly Beauty” by Thelonious Monk and Radiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack”.

Alis Grave Nil

Nalbandian’s tenth album, Alis Grave Nil, is a follow-up to Time Waits. Originating from the same solo piano recording session as Time Waits; it was released on July 23, 2014. Alis Grave Nil (translated from Latin meaning “nothing is heavy to those who have wings”) includes compositions by Nalbandian, Charlie Chaplin, Eubie Blake, & Kendrick Lamar. The album artwork of both “Time Waits” and “Alis Grave Nil” feature paintings by Armen Nalbandian.

Recent work

Since 2011, Nalbandian has taken a hiatus from live performance with the exception of a pair of impromptu duet performances with comedian Dave Chappelle at Yoshi’s Jazz Club. Nalbandian released his 9th & 10th albums; Time Waits and Alis Grave Nil in 2014. Nalbandian is currently developing his 11th album. Details of which are not yet known.

Listen: A Retrospective

On May 14th, 2016, Armen Nalbandian debuted ”Listen” a temporary multimedia art installation via his website The retrospective showcased highlights from his 10 album oeuvre while examining the relationship between art and its audience. The project’s aim to straddle the line between artistic timelessness and the concept of temporary technological connection by showcasing videos of people listening to selected compositions from his 10 albums for the first time, with the video subsequently expiring after it is played. The installation continually evolved every hour showcasing a new listener.

Portrait of an Artist as a Young Improviser

Nalbandian’s first book, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Improviser: Writings 2006–2007, was published in April 2013 chronicling his compositions and live performances circa 2006-2007. The book contains essays and entries written by Nalbandian from 2006 to 2007. Included are listening guideposts and footnotes looking back on the process of composing for his concert series and the creation of his album, Manchester Born.


Nalbandian has frequently used his position as a musician to perform many humanitarian services. He has raised thousands of dollars in aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina by way of many benefit concerts. Nalbandian has also raised money for organizations as diverse as The United Way, The Red Cross, the ONE Campaign, Habitat for Humanity, The American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Research and The Relay for Life Foundation, among others. Nalbandian launched his not-for-profit charitable organization, The Blacksmith Brotherhood, in 2012.

References to Basquiat

Nalbandian frequently references the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat in his work and song titles. Numerous compositions throughout his discography reference specific Basquiat paintings and graffiti. Two of Nalbandian’s albums, Young Kings Get Their Heads Cut Off and To Repel Ghosts, reference Basquiat in their titles; both albums featuring cover art that evokes his art. Nalbandian also presented a concert inspired by Basquiat’s work in March 2008 during his tenure as Artist-in-Residence at the Fresno Art Museum.


  • Armen (2006)
  • Manchester Born (2007)
  • Young Kings Get Their Heads Cut Off (2007)
  • Tirez Sur Le Pianiste (2009) (EP)
  • To Repel Ghosts (2010)
  • Quiet As It’s Kept (2011)
  • Coup de Grace (2011)
  • Surrounded by Snakes (2013)
  • Time Waits (2014)
  • Alis Grave Nil (2014)