Armenian jazz pianist David Azarian counted the impressionistic, textural ruminations of Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea as his primary influences, though his own personal style allowed for a distinctly cheerful undertone amid all the introspection. Born in the Armenian capital of Yerevan in 1952, Azarian discovered music through his father, a teacher and orchestra musician. He himself started attending music school at age seven, where he learned classical piano; however, his ear was soon turned to jazz thanks to the Voice of America radio broadcasts. He won a prestigious Armenian piano competition at age 12, and graduated from a professional music school in 1970. Two years later he formed his own jazz trio, and performed with them while furthering his education at a conservatory in Yerevan. In 1976, he was admitted to the prestigious Soviet Union Composer's Union, and was tapped to lead the TV and Radio Jazz Ensemble of Armenia; he also played in a jazz-rock fusion outfit at the Dvin Hotel in Yerevan. In 1982, he formed a new trio that toured Europe and the Soviet Union, and also recorded several albums that were released only in his home country. One, 1986's Stairway to Seventh Heaven, was licensed for release in the U.S. by Mobile Fidelity a short time later.
In 1989, Azarian traveled to Cambridge, MA, to perform several concerts as a gesture of thanks for American aid following a devastating earthquake in Armenia. A church in Providence convinced him to stay and perform several more benefit shows for earthquake victims in both Armenia and San Francisco, and Azarian got an extension on his ten-day visa that turned into a permanent emigration. He remarried and settled in Belmont, MA, and began performing around the Northeast with a new group. An album titled Living in Jazzland, which combined two trio performances dating from 1991 and 1997 at public radio station WGBH, was given a small release, and was reissued in 1999 by the German label Enja under the title Hope. Another album, Desire, was compiled for the Gravity label from two Boston-area performances in 1998. Gravity also reissued Stairway to Seventh Heaven and another Soviet-era album, the early-'80s session Longing. Azarian joined the faculty of the prestigious Berklee School of Music not long before his tragic death in a traffic accident on March 29, 2003; stopped to change a driver's-side tire, his minivan was rammed by an erratically driving SUV, killing him instantly.