Avo Uvezian, the legendary jazz pianist turned cigarmaker passed away today, two days after his 91st birthday.
Uvezian was born in Beirut on March 22, 1926 into a family of musicians. He would come to the U.S. in 1947 to study at the Juilliard School in New York City. He would continue to study music, but was drafted into the military during the Korean War, though he never served in Korea. Afterwards he would continue his music, as well as jewelry-making before entering the world of cigars.
In 1983, Uvezian purchased a cigar to celebrate the birth of his daughter. Unhappy with it, he eventually traveled to the Dominican Republic to see if he could make his own cigars. It was there he met Hendrik “Henke” Kelner Jr. and Kelner began producing cigars for Uvezian.
The AVO brand was sold in the U.S. before the Davidoff brand, which Kelner would also manufacture after the Swiss company left Cuba. In 1995, a few years after it began working with Kelner, Davidoff bought the AVO brand from Uvezian and Avo, the person, became part of the Davidoff family where he served as an ambassador and inspiration of his eponymous brand.
Uvezian was a noted face for the company, traveling across the world to visit stores and meet customers, oftentimes playing a piano. Last year, Uvezian was honored at Davidoff’s annual Golden Band Awards dinner with a formal recognition from the Lebanese government.
Davidoff issued a statement on his passing with three of the company’s officials commenting on Uvezian.
Scott Kolesaire, the AVO brand manager:
Up until the end, the daily phone calls and free-flowing ideas were part of our everyday conversations. Avo was my friend, a life mentor, and a person unlike any other. I will miss him dearly.
Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard, ceo of Oettinger Davidoff AG:
Avo has been a huge personality across the globe and was part of the Davidoff family for over 30 years and we will sorely miss his passion, his personality and his wonderful talents as a cigar man and as a music man.
Jim Young, president of Davidoff North America:
Avo was incredibly energized by his engagement with the business and was constantly bringing new ideas to think about. An evening with Avo was always an unforgettable evening of great conversation, laughter and warmth. We shall miss him deeply.
Uvezian is survived by his wife, Nivia, and four children: Karyn, Jeffrey, Robert and Ronny.