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Levon Ichkhanian

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Although his superb After Hours session of 1997 focused mainly on fusion, Levon Ichkhanian is a flexible player who is also knowledgeable of hard bop, classical, and Middle Eastern music. Originally from Beirut, Lebanon, Ichkhanian is of Armenian descent and is the son of jazz pianist Edouard Ichkhanian, who became musical director for Armenian singer Adiss in 1974 and did a great deal to popularize modern jazz-influenced Armenian pop. Ichkhanian, who was 12 when the family moved from Lebanon to Toronto in 1977, started out on acoustic classical guitar as a preteen, but moved to the electric guitar when he was 13, playing his first professional gig backing Adiss. Ichkhanian was 16 when his live performances in Toronto earned him a spot on the Canadian All Star Jazz Awards, and he was 17 when a scholarship from the Ontario Arts Council enabled him to study at the University of Toronto's jazz workshop. At 24, he composed the soundtrack for the 1988 independent film Looking for Nothing. In 1996, he studied with guitarists Jim Hall, Pat Martino, and Steve Khan, and co-led the session Kickin' Jazz with drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie. And in the late 1990s, he played on the soundtracks for various independent films, including You Can't Beat a Woman and The Hockey Game in 1997, and Shadowmakers in 1998. Although the guitar is Ichkhanian's main instrument, he is also proficient with the oud (a lute that is prominent in Arabic music), the bouzouki (which is heard mainly in Greek and Armenian music), and the mandolin.