Slava Grigorian

José Carbó & The Grigoryan Brothers – My Latin Heart

An evening of sumptuous song, stunning strings & tantalising tango is promised, when internationally acclaimed baritone José Carbó joins classical guitarists, the Grigoryan Brothers on Sat 22nd August at The Tanks Arts Centre. With a lush collection of Latin American songs, their album ‘My Latin Heart’ shot to number 1 on the Limelight Classical charts in 2013 and was nominated for Classical Album Of The Year at the Aria Awards.

José Carbó is well known for his soulful interpretations and fierce technique as well as performing regularly with Opera Australia and abroad. Alongside the legendary combination of Slava and Leonard Grigoryan who have astounded audiences worldwide with their guitar virtuosity, this promises to be a breathtaking night of Latin music.

We caught up with guitarist Slava Grigoryan ahead of their upcoming Cairns performance.

You’re in NSW at the moment, how’s the tour been going?

We’ve just been doing a little bit of regional touring at the moment, last week we were in Tassie and we’re currently in Lismore. We played in Coffs Harbour last night which was great just with my brother as a duo. Next week we’ll be starting a couple of weeks of shows with José Carbó, which is what we’ll be coming up to your neck of the woods for. It’s always very hard with all our schedules to get the time to do this type of show, so it’s always very special when we do get the chance. This is our first run of shows (with José) since the start of the year so we’re all very much looking forward to it.

Is there any sibling rivalry amongst you and your brother? You guys play so often together and have such a great connection when you play. Is there any brotherly moments or is it all smooth sailing?

(laughter) I wish I could have some good juicy stories for you but unfortunately we are unbelievably boring and we get along really well. We’re really lucky and I think it’s because there is a 9 year age gap and we grew up separately so we never had to compete for the same attention. It was only later in life that I had travelled overseas and came back to Australia when he was 14. He had matured into a great player, so we started working together professionally and our friendship just went from strength to strength. Musically we both love it immensely but the friendship is very special. Sometimes we’ll spend a couple of months on the road and the first thing we do when we get home is hang out together, which one wouldn’t think would happen that much but it does.

Do you find that being siblings helps with your playing or do you have that connection as guitarist who have worked together for so long?

There is an environment that we are both incredibly familiar with. We grew up playing together; Leonard was 4 when he started playing guitar. There is so much unspoken communication that happens. We collaborate and we love working with other people which has produced a lot of great stuff, but we also know for us to do great things it’s definitely not as hard because a lot of it is unspoken.

Your parents are Violinist, what made you choose Guitar and not follow the Violin path?

Funnily enough they actually choose it for me. Dad loved the guitar and that was the first instrument I got.

Did he play guitar?

Not back then, they both lived in the former Soviet Union and he recalls hearing the guitar when he was growing up but Classical guitar didn’t exist in Russia at all; it was purely folk and pop. He would have loved to learn it himself but never got the chance. So when our family moved to Australia when I was 4 years old, within a short period of time he bought me a guitar because all of sudden we had access to this instrument everywhere here, including strings and other musical things we take for granted. He started teaching music. I was his first student and his life very much revolves around the guitar now. He still teaches full time and lot of his students are guitarist. He writes and arranges a lot of stuff for us so he is very much involved. A few years ago he started playing himself so he’s hard at work practising his guitar skills.

Classical musicians are obviously very well known for being perfectionist and very highly disciplined with the instrument. Do you ever allow yourself to be free when you’re playing?

We grew up playing Jazz so although we were trained with a Classical method; we were absolutely encouraged to improvise and to listen to other things from an early stage. Nowadays in all of our concerts, especially the duo concerts there are a lot of improvisation. With the gigs with José there is a little bit of it, there is a lot of freedom within a certain form which is very strict, but we definitely look to the freedom and work to that.

When did you first meet José Carbó and how long have you been working together for?

I first worked with him on my own 15 years ago; he joined me in Sydney for a couple of songs at one of my solo gigs. We had a connection straight away, we started talking about doing something in the future but it took forever to get going. His operatic career really took off and we were always busy on the road, every few years we would meet up and say ‘we really should do that’. Later on when I was pretty much only playing the duo concerts with Lenny, the opportunity came up with José and we finally found the time to arrange all the songs and get into the studio. Since then we get together a couple of times a year to do a few tours that are always very special and lot of fun. José ‘s life pretty much revolves around the seasons of Opera both in Australia and abroad, so he only has a short window in between we’re he can come on the road. Very different to our life’s which is always in transit. We’re definitely looking at doing another album at some time.

Your latest duo album was called ‘This Time’ (available  , what’s the meaning behind that name and that album?

‘This Time’ is the title track which is Lenny’s piece which is a good example of what that album is all about. It’s all new music with a lot of space which is not something we can always do when we’re working on classical projects. We did the album in an incredible studio in Norway (Rainbow Studio); a lot of our favourite albums were made there in the 60’s and 70’s. The same engineer (Erik Kongshaug) is still there and we worked with him on this album. With the duo project we alternate between a contemporary album and a classical album, so that was the contemporary albums go, next one will definitely be a classical album.

Just one last question, what can we expect for your upcoming gig at The Tanks?

It’s very much a show celebrating the ‘My Latin Heart’ album with songs from Argentina and other Spanish speaking countries, but Argentina in particular because the significant tango influence. These songs in Argentina were extraordinarily popular from the 30’s to the 60’s. Some a little earlier but it was basically the pop music of its day. Dispute José being an operatic singer he grew up with those songs and they are very special to him. For us as guitarist we always played music from Spain and South America so it is also a very familiar language to us. We don’t differ away from that during the show so it’s all related. We’ve heard so many great things about The Tanks so we are really looking forward to it!

Mitch Sullivan

José Carbó & The Grigoryan Brothers – My Latin Heart at The Tanks Arts Centre. Sat 22nd August.

Tickets available through Ticketlink

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