French magazine publishes articles on Azerbaijani jazz
Baku – APA. French magazine “Couleurs Jazz” has published an article by Neil Watson, Editor-in-Chief of TEAS Magazine of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), on the history, development, and future of Azerbaijani jazz, as well as renowned jazz performers of Azerbaijan, TEAS told APA.
The article is titled “Jazz – a mellifluous Azerbaijani export.”
Jazz – a mellifluous Azerbaijani export
Azerbaijani jazz has a long history that dates back 90 years, almost to the earliest days of recorded jazz. The first band in the country was the Eastern Jazz Band, which featured vocals by the tenor Huseyngulu Sarabski (great-grandfather of Isfar Sarabski, a leading contemporary jazz pianist) who toured the Soviet Union.
In Soviet times, attitudes towards jazz across the USSR varied according to the prevailing political climate. Obviously, the music had evolved in the US, but it was a product of the underprivileged and oppressed in the American ‘melting pot’. It was therefore sometimes difficult for jazz musicians to perform openly. Despite this, Azerbaijani composers and musicians such as Niyazi and Tofiq Guliyev managed to combine chord sequences derived from jazz into symphonic music. Attitudes changed after Stalin’s death in 1953, and were further relaxed when Leonid Brezhnev – a lifelong jazz fan – became the Soviet premiere.
In the 1950s jazz musicians from across the Soviet and Eastern bloc flocked to Baku, which became known as the Jazz Capital of the Soviet Union
The national music of Azerbaijan is mugham, and although its harmonic structure, metre, scales, and instrumentation differ vastly from western music, there are some commonalities with jazz, in that there are specific ensemble passages at the beginning and end of each piece, and between those there is room for improvisation around the chords and melodies. This high level of improvisation and personal interpretation made Baku very receptive to jazz music, and in the 1950s jazz musicians from across the Soviet and Eastern bloc flocked to Baku, which became known as the Jazz Capital of the Soviet Union, where such musicians as Parviz Rustambeyov (the Soviet Benny Goodman) could develop their art.
The development of postbop modal jazz in the US in the 1950s and 60s by such luminaries as Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal paved the way for a very Azerbaijani musical revolution in Azerbaijan. Taking Azerbaijani mugham as a point of departure, classically-trained pianists and composers such as Rafiq Babayev and Vagif Mustafazdeh synthesised this with modal jazz to create a form of ethnojazz known as jazz-mugham. Often performed in the standard jazz trio format of piano, bass and drums, the work of Vagif Mustafazadeh received particular plaudits, not least for his richly ornamented approach to the piano. Often said to be ‘the Father of Azerbaijani Jazz’, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie said he had created “the music of the future” and blues guitarist BB King commented: “People call me the King of the Blues, but if I could play the piano like you do, I would call myself God.”
Aziza Musafazadeh has taken the jazz-mugham concept even further, adopting a mystical approach in her own compositions
Despite suddenly passing away at the age of 39, the influence of Vagif Mustafazadeh cannot be underestimated. Almost all jazz musicians in Azerbaijan today owe much to his legacy – the youthful Isfar Sarabski, who won the Solo Jazz Piano Prize at the 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival – regularly performs his March in his sets.
Emil Afrasiyab has undertaken his own transcription of Vagif’s Piano Concerto; and his daughter Aziza Musafazadeh has taken the jazz-mugham concept even further, adopting a mystical approach in her own compositions, often ornamented by her own khanande-influenced scat singing.
The breathtaking Shahin Novrasli often collaborates with his brothers on the national instruments of tar and kamancha to produce an effortlessly accessible of jazz, mugham and the west and east. Another pianist, Amina Figarova, comes from rather a different background, that of freeform jazz, having made her career in the Netherlands and the US. Latterly, Elchin Shirinov – a musician from a folkloric background – has been improvising in and around folk and Azerbaijani classical themes, whilst his compositions still incorporate the microtones and eastern harmonies of mugham.
Baku hosted its first jazz festival in 1969, and now the annual Baku International Jazz Festival, organised by saxophonist Rain Sultanov, attracts some of the world’s greatest talents, including Billy Cobham, the late Joe Zawinul, Charles Lloyd and Stanley Clarke, alongside the brightest talents from Azerbaijan and the post-Soviet world. Naturally, such collaborations have had an impact on Azerbaijani jazz, and the work of Isfar Sarasbki and Elchin Shirinov, for example – is replete with funky repeated figures, whereas Salman Gambarov’s work firmly falls into the category of jazz-rock fusion. Tenor saxophonist Rain Sultanov takes a different approach, combining the fusion of Michael Brecker with classical, mugham and world music instrumentation and harmonies.
With a jazz club in central Baku, and high-calibre musicians aplenty, jazz is very much alive, well and prospering in Azerbaijan.
Related news releases
- 09.03.2017European premiere of “Ali and Nino” held in Brussels
- 23.02.2017Not Frozen, Never Forgotten – the plight of Azerbaijani IDPs highlighted in Brussels
- 30.01.2017Film scripted by APA Holding employee invited to int’l film festival
- 28.12.2016Famous Azerbaijani singer Zeynab Khanlarova turns 80 today
- 26.12.2016Azerbaijani People’s artist Aghakhan Abdullayev laid to rest
- 26.12.2016First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva attends farewell ceremony for People’s Artist Aghakhan Abdullayev
- 22.12.2016Azerbaijani people’s artist Mukhtar Maniyev passes away
- 14.12.2016Great cultural, literary figures Azerbaijan and the world lost in 2016 - LIST
- 12.12.2016Honored artist of Azerbaijan Ismayil Mammadov dies
- 27.10.2016Baku to host European film festival
- 26.10.2016‘Ali and Nino’ premieres in Los Angeles to great acclaim
- 24.10.2016Jeffrey Werbock: Had I not known Azerbaijan, I would have been living ordinary life - INTERVIEW
- 21.10.2016“Sayat Nova is Azerbaijani, not Armenian; he is Seyat Neva”
- 06.10.2016Mehriban Aliyeva attends premiere of "Ali and Nino"
- 14.09.2016Pope Francis thanks Azerbaijani sculptor for making his bust
- 17.06.2016Exhibition of famous artist George Condo opens at Heydar Aliyev Center
- 09.06.2016Heydar Aliyev Center to host George Condo’s exhibition
- 18.05.2016Vital role of Azerbaijani oil in WWII victory highlighted in Los Angeles
- 27.04.2016Films on Azerbaijan produced in Los Angeles
- 12.04.2016Pascal Contet and Travelling Quartet to perform at Heydar Aliyev Center
- 07.03.2016Vidadi Muradov awarded Shohrat Order
- 04.03.2016Statue of Maestro Niyazi to be raised in Baku
- 29.02.2016Exhibition titled ‘Shah Ismail I – commander and king’ to be held in Azerbaijan
- 25.02.2016Azerbaijani people's artist Ilhama Guliyeva dies
- 18.02.2016Play “Red Angel in Khojaly” on Khojaly genocide to be premiered in Baku
- 08.02.2016World premiere of Firangiz Alizadeh’s work held in San Francisco
- 04.02.2016Khojaly massacre documentary ‘Endless Corridor’ wins Humanitarian Award from Global Film Awards
- 04.02.2016Pierre Richard: When people ask me about Baku, my thoughts always go back to friendly people I met there
- 29.01.2016US hosts premiere of film "Ali and Nino"
- 06.01.2016New director of Azerbaijan Academic National Drama Theatre named
- 09.12.2015Endless Corridor film to be broadcast on Eurochannel
- 24.11.2015Turkish Film is winner of this year's LUX Film Prize
- 20.11.2015Honored artist of Azerbaijan to open exhibition in New York
- 18.11.2015Azerbaijani artist receives Mozart medal
- 17.10.2015Seoul hosts opening of Azerbaijan Film Festival - PHOTOSESSION
- 19.09.2015Uzeyir Hajibeyli’s contributions recognized at U.S. Congress
- 17.09.2015Postage stamps dedicated to Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli and singer Rashid Behbudov issued in U.S.
- 03.09.2015September 18 proclaimed "Uzeyir Hajibeyli Memorial Day" in Santa Monica City of California
- 28.08.2015Legendary Azerbaijani Musical Comedy Film ‘Arşın Mal Alan’ to premier in Hollywood
- 17.08.2015People's Artist Habil Aliyev’s health condition improved
- 25.08.2016Azerbaijani composer to give concert in Paris
- 31.08.2016Azerbaijani composer Ogtay Zulfugarov dies aged 88
- 09.09.2016Endless corridor movie to be shown in Al Jazeera TV
- 26.07.2016Azerbaijani classical music discussed in Los Angeles
- 20.07.2016Azerbaijani spirit comes to two leading London jazz clubs
- 30.06.2016Baku hosts photo exhibition depicting life of national minorities