Jazz: Azer­bai­jan’s one of high­est-val­ued gain

Azer News - - Culture & Lifestyle - By Amina Nazarli

Jazz, an in­ter­na­tional lan­guage, in­flu­enc­ing many cul­tures is loved in Azer­bai­jan, where it has a long­stand­ing his­tory. Once known as the Jazz cap­i­tal of the Soviet Union, the mu­si­cal genre is still very much alive and well in the coun­try. Baku was one of the three-four cities best known for jazz, along with Len­ingrad and Riga at the time.

Azer­bai­jani jazz, based on Mugham, tra­di­tional mu­si­cal form, is a unique mu­sic, com­bin­ing clas­si­cal and na­tional folk­lore genre and hardly any other na­tional jazz scene has such a range of styles, tra­di­tions and tech­niques.

The “flow­er­ing” of Azer­bai­jani jazz is as­so­ci­ated with the names of giants such as Rafig Babayev and Vagif Mustafazade, who ex­per­i­mented cre­at­ing un­re­peat­able com­po­si­tions, be­com­ing the founders of a new jazz trend jazz-mugham. This unique genre as­sem­bles both a tra­di­tional Azer­bai­jan mu­sic and a clas­sic Amer­i­can jazz.

Rafik Babayev, a unique mu­si­cian, com­poser, and a high-class pi­anist Rafig Babayev to­day is the his­tory and tra­di­tion of Azer­bai­jani jazz.

Jazz for Rafig was not just a way of life, a sense of self or the pos­si­bil­ity of em­body­ing creative ideas, but also a sub­ject of deep re­search, study, and pen­e­tra­tion. He was wor­ried about the jazz of his own source, not of any­one like a mu­si­cal lan­guage. He never went down to ethno­graphic pro­fan­i­ties and sim­u­la­tions. He was just sure that Azer­bai­jani melodies were per­fectly com­bined with jazz.

In one of his last in­ter­views he re­vealed the essence of Azer­bai­jan jazz.

“Na­tional Jazz is an or­ganic im­plan­ta­tion of Azer­bai­jani in­to­na­tions into the clas­si­cal jazz struc­ture ... Azer­bai­jani mu­sic is all built on mugham, so, nat­u­rally, knowl­edge of mugham, mugham in­to­na­tions, knowl­edge of jazz stan­dards and the abil­ity to or­gan­i­cally use ev­ery­thing it's in jazz com­po­si­tions ... Quotes are com­pletely gone, but in­ton­ing is present in the depth of each layer, in the party of each mu­si­cian of the en­sem­ble. This can be called poly­phonic Azer­bai­jani jazz mu­sic," he said.

Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, Babayev had to make de­ci­sion be­tween the two op­tions to un­der­stand which path to take: mu­si­cal or math­e­mat­i­cal? It is not known whether the sci­ence has lost a great sci­en­tist, but we have no doubt that Azer­bai­jan have ac­quired a great mu­si­cian.

How­ever, the tragic death of Rafig Babayev shocked not only the Azer­bai­jani peo­ple, but the en­tire world com­mu­nity. He, like dozens of in­no­cent civil­ians, in­clud­ing women, old peo­ple and chil­dren, was the vic­tim of the bloody terror com­mit­ted in Baku on March 19, 1994. The ex­plo­sion that took place at the metro sta­tion cut short the life of a won­der­ful mu­si­cian and cheer­ful per­son at the most im­por­tant and cru­cial stage of his life. He could have done a lot more for art and young peo­ple. He did not live to see his 58th birth­day just a few days ...

Known as "fa­ther of jazz" in Azer­bai­jan, mag­nif­i­cent pi­anist and com­poser, Vagif Mustafazade con­quered the mil­lions of hearts with his orig­i­nal­ity, vir­tu­oso tech­nique, and a pe­cu­liar har­monic lan­guage.

He could cre­ate a great syn­the­sis of jazz with na­tional mu­sic, some­thing ma­jes­tic, some­thing heaven. Dur­ing his short but very fruit­ful life he was able to cre­ate al­most 1,300 pieces of mu­sic, de­spite heart prob­lems.

Af­ter the death of Vagif, the fa­mous Amer­i­can mu­si­col­o­gist Wil­lis Conover an­nounced on the ra­dio that the world lost a bril­liant mu­si­cian of that time ...

The fa­mous king of the blues BB King shouted in the hall, "Mr. Mustafazade, they call me the “King of the Blues”, but I as­sure I wish I could have played the blues as you do."

Many peo­ple won­der, how the guy who was born in Azer­bai­jan, has such a bril­liant knowl­edge of the Amer­i­can jazz. He knows mugham from his mother, but jazz...

Mustafazade played so fan­tas­ti­cally, be­cause of his un­matched per­for­mance of three or­gans: brain, heart and hand, mak­ing the sounds so sin­cere and pure.

De­spite sud­denly pass­ing away at the age of 39, the in­flu­ence of Vagif Mustafazade 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 fre­quently plays his com­po­si­tions Az­iza and March; and his daugh­ter Az­iza Mustafazadeh 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.

To­day, the name of Shahin Novrasli has also be­come syn­ony­mous with the “brand” of Azer­bai­jani jazz. He has been able to suc­cess­fully syn­the­size the melodies of Azer­bai­jani Mugham with tra­di­tional jazz rhythms.

His­tory of Azer­bai­jani jazz is very rich and il­lus­tri­ous and it con­tin­ues to grow un­til now.

Since 2002 the Caspian Jazz in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­val has held in Baku ev­ery year, at­tract­ing many fa­mous for­eign mu­si­cians to the City of Winds.

Baku Jazz Fes­ti­val be­com­ing a tra­di­tion since 2005, pro­mot­ing jazz in Baku and dis­cov­er­ing new names. This sum­mer the cap­i­tal city will re­main com­mit­ted to its tra­di­tions and from June 4 to 8 will gather many well-known jazz mu­si­cians at theIn­ter­na­tional Mugham Cen­ter.

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