“Alina is really quite special. She is kind of like one in a million. There aren’t many people who want to sing jazz, who have this special feeling for the tradition, where jazz singers have been and what they borrowed from horn players. Not every jazz singer has that. What did Louis Armstrong borrow from his horn when he began to sing? Not every singer understands that, she gets that! (…) When she sings, you can hear her heart. That is very special.”
— Al Jarreau
On We Are, the follow-up to the jazz/ singer-songwriter’s 2016 critically-acclaimed debut Driving Down the Road, Russian-born Engibaryan chose to concentrate on making original music — and creating something far more personal. “A lot of songs on my album are about love, empowerment and how people treat each other,” says Alina Engibaryan. “It’s all about some kind of relationship.” It marks a huge step forward for the artist, the granddaughter of jazz drumming great Nikolay Goncharov and a budding singer since the age of two. “I kind of changed everything for this record,” she says. “The band is different and the music is stylistically different from the first album. I only had one original song on that record. This time, all except one song are mine.”
Michael League, the label head of GroundUP Music and co-founder of the Grammy-winning collective Snarky Puppy, arranged and produced We Are. League discovered the singer while touring the Netherlands, when Engibaryan was studying jazz vocals at the Prince Claus Conservatory.
Inspired by the likes of music legends Stevie Wonder, Kurt Elling and Gregory Porter, as well as mentors such as J.D. Walter (a co-writer on the album track “Love Song”) and the late Al Jarreau (who oversaw the 2015 Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition that Engibaryan won), We Are is a beautifully diverse mix of traditional and contemporary jazz, and one that deftly touches on empowerment (“Little Girl”) and worldly trepidation (“Doesn’t Seem So Real”). The all-star band on We Are working with Engibaryan (who sang and played keyboards) includes League, Taylor Eigsti, Maria Im, Zach Brock, Nathan Schram, Sam Quiggins, Larnell Lewis, Chris McQueen and Chris Potter.
Moving forward, Engibaryan will be a part of the winter 2018 GroundUP Music Festival in Florida, and continue to perform on her own in New York and throughout Europe. She will also be on tour with Russian trumpeter Alex Sipiagin in late 2018.
As far as her own music goes, Engibaryan simply hopes to spark a connection with the listener. “I feel like when people hear this, they’ll understand the vibe I was going for,” she says. “It’s not a ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ album. I think people will relate to the music in their own way. It’s just a very honest record.”