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'Jazz hands' at the ready in Azerbaijan

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'Jazz hands' at the ready in Azerbaijan

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Autumn is jazz time in the Azerbaijan capital Baku. Each year, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism organises the International Baku Jazz Festival, and this time American saxophonist Joshua Redman came to open the show with his Quartette.

Redman graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University, with a degree in Social Studies, but has played saxophone since early childhood. In 1991 he won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition, which is when he started focusing on his musical career.

Redman took some time out from performing to speak to euronews:

“I was never able to sound like anyone else, I feel like your own voice, your own sound is something that is very natural, you know. I think it has to do with your attitude, when you get up on stage to play you are not playing what you have learnt, you are not playing what you rehearsed, you are playing what you feel in the moment. If you play what you feel in the moment, you will play it in your own voice.”

Redman released his latest album “Walking Shadows,” earlier this year.

Actor Gérard Depardieu paid a surprise visit to the festival. The former French citizen has been offered passports from many Eastern European Countries since he left France for tax reasons.

We asked why he was at the festival:

“Azerbaijan is a place I love. I have lots of friends here, including musicians and the Baku Jazz Festival is very important,” explained Depardieu.

The Jangi Jazz Band was drawn to Mirjavad Jafarov’s unusual and interesting combination of classical music, mixed with jazz and Azerbaijan’s traditional mugham music. Jafarov is one of Azerbaijan’s best lute players. His son also plays the tar – a type of lute – in the band.

Jafarov described the inspiration behind his musical style:

“I had the idea for this combination when I realised that both jazz and mugham music are all about improvisation,” he said. “When my son played classical music on his tar, it sounded like jazz to me.”

21-year-old Azerian jazz pianist Elbey Mammadzade performed a set at Baku’s jazz centre. He started his musical education in early childhood and is still a music student today.

Grammy-award winning saxophonist, Kenny Garrett, also made a stop in Baku to promote his latest album, “Pushing The World Away.” At the start of his career, he performed with legends such as Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. But the days when jazz was popular in clubs is over, as a lot of jazz music is now considered elitist.

Garrett spoke to euronews about the changing jazz scene:

“Everything is moving, everything is changing and the musicians are changing with the time. It’s like the musicians who created all the great music like Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and (Miles) Davis, they were at a certain time,” he explained.

“So now as a musician embracing the music, they have to decide what part of that music they wanna embrace. I mean jazz musicians are trying to connect with people, for sure, but I think we realise that this music is pretty much for selected few people, and those ones who understand, they come in and they take a journey with us.”

Kenny Garrett’s latest album, “Pushing The World Away,” is out now.

Euronews correspondent, Wolfgang Spindler, attended this year’s festival:

“The Baku Jazz Festival is an excellent occasion to discover the country’s jazz talent,” he said. “But the Festival could be more than a line up of great concerts: it could be a music event which spreads the jazz vibe across the whole city, similar to Montreux’s or Montreal’s jazz festivals.

If you’d like some further information on the Baku Jazz Festival, or the artists performing, click on the following links:

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