Legendary Armenian-American jazz pianist and cigar manufacturer Avo Uvezian dies at 91
Legendary Armenian-American jazz pianist and cigar manufacturer Avo Uvezian passed away on March 24, two days after his 91st birthday, The Armenian Weekly reports.
Known in the cigar industry for his Avo brands and his sharp sense of style, Uvezian was long a vivacious part of the cigar industry, touring in support of his cigars even at 90 years old. A showman and cigar lover, it wasn’t uncommon to see Uvezian play piano at a cigar event while puffing on one of his cigars and waxing poetic about the joys of smoking.
Uvezian first came into cigar prominence when the Avo line was born in 1987, but his cigar story started long before that.
Born in 1926 in Beirut, Lebanon, Uvezian formed a musical group called the Liban Boys in 1945 right after the end of World War II. They managed to get a contract playing in a hotel in Baghdad, where the group lasted a year before moving on to a hotel in Tehran. Uvezian quickly made a name for himself as a pianist and eventually received an invitation from Shah Reza Pahlevi, at the time the leader of Iran, to play at his palace. Uvezian stayed in Tehran for a year, and made such an impression on the Shah that he recommended that Uvezian go to America, and personally paid for his trip.
Uvezian arrived in New York City in 1947, playing in various bands while studying at Juilliard. After two years in the U.S. Army, he eventually found himself in Puerto Rico in the jewelry business. But music called him back, and by 1974 he was playing piano at the Palmas del Mar resort. During this time, he made a crucial observation: people not only came to hear his music, but they also liked smoking cigars. Uvezian would purchase a few local cigars each night and place them on top of the piano for anyone who wanted to smoke.
“Customers and friends used to write me and ask me for the cigars,” Uvezian told Cigar Aficionado in an interview. “That’s when I said to myself that I better look at getting serious about this.”
Uvezian was introduced to Davidoff’s cigarmaker Hendrik “Henke” Kelner, and in 1987, his first cigars from Kelner were sold under the Bolero label in San Juan. Shortly after, he changed the cigar name to Avo and debuted them in New York City. The brand was created exclusively for the Davidoff shop.
Uvezian launched Avo across the U.S. in 1988, and in 1995, Davidoff purchased the distribution rights for the brand. In 10 years, Uvezian saw his brand grow from about 5,000 cigars in 1987 to about 3.2 million in 1997.
“He’s like family,” said Jeff Borysiewicz of Corona Cigar in Orlando. “He was family. He’s the godfather of my kids. He brought charisma and charm to the industry and people were attracted to him. He had the kind of magnetism I’d never seen. Avo spoke so many languages and had such an international life. He was incredible.”
Since the early-2000s, Uvezian has celebrated his birthday with a special, limited-edition cigar and a cigar party as well as a national tour. Though tour dates decreased as he got a little older, he usually made time for New York. Last year, Uvezian made an appearance in Manhattan for his 90th birthday.
“People always ask me, ‘Avo, what’s your secret?’ ” Uvezian said at the time. “And I tell them that every time you smoke cigars, you have given yourself another day of life. I think I’m going to be doing this until I’m 99 years old. That way, when I get to 99, I’ll say, ‘Well, I might as well go to 100.’
He almost made it.
Avo Uvezian is survived by his wife, Nivia, his sons Robert, Jeffrey and Ronnie, and his daughter Karyn.
Lavrov: Armenia and Russia Prepare Document Guaranteeing Absence of Foreign Military and Transparency of Biolabs
Artsakh Foreign Minister Received Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to Austria Armen Papikyan
Garo Paylan: No Turkish History Without Armenians
Armenian President, Georgian PM Exchange Views on Current Agenda of Bilateral Relations
Italy Coalition Agrees on New Budget, Expects EU Approval
Pashinyan Has Always Raised Russia-Azerbaijan Weapons Supply Issue in Discussions with Putin - Spokesperson
President of Artsakh Holds Meeting with Armenia’s Acting Minister of Education and Science
Putin: Rap Should Be Controlled in Russia
Acting PM’s Spouse Meets Swiss-Armenian Philanthropists and Businessmen in Geneva
Bomb Explodes Outside Private Greek TV Station
Some Roads in Armenia are Difficult to Pass: Black Ice is Formed in some places
New EU Referendum would Break Faith with Britons, May to Warn MPs
The Early Parliamentary Elections' Final Results Resumed Today
EU Calls Turkish Authorities to Refrain from any Unilateral Action in Syria
President Sarkissian Arrived in Georgia to Attend the Oath Taking Ceremony of Zurabishvili
Letter to Santa Written in 1898 is Discovered
NSS Head Condemns the Law Enforcement Officers' Visits to Armenian Media Outlets’ Offices
Paris Police Arrest Dozens During Protests
UN Chief Concerned about Kosovo Secision to Form Army
NKR Defense Army: During the Past Week Azerbaijani Armed Forces Violated the Ceasefire Regime About 250 Times
Armen Sargsyan: "My grandmother Fleeing from the Genocide Took the Most Precious Things – Her Son and the Bible"
Nikol Pashinyan Made a Donation to Hayastan All-Armenian Fund and Addressed the Nation in a Live Broadcast
Nikol Pashinyan Hands State Prize for Global IT Contribution to James Truchard, Co-Founder and President of National Instruments
Poroshenko, Stoltenberg Agree To Immediately Convene Ukraine - NATO Commission Over Russia's Aggression
Regular Consultations Between the Foreign Ministries of the Republic of Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia
NKR Defense Army: During the Past Week Azerbaijani Armed Forces Violated the Ceasefire Regime More Than 120 Times
As a Humanitarian Gesture, the Authorities of Artsakh are Ready, within the Framework of the Law, to Consider the Possibility of the Early Release of Citizen of Azerbaijan, Elnur Huseynzade
Pashinyan: "Armenia Is to Become a Country where Major Businesses Will never Get Smaller, and the Smaller ones Will Grow into Medium-Size Entities"
Nikol Pashinyan Attended The Inauguration Of A New Building Of The Consulate General Of Armenia In St. Petersburg
The President of Artsakh Bako Sahakyan met in Moscow with a Group of Russian Entrepreneurs and Philanthropists
Wind: 6.44 km/h