Monday 1 November 2010
The International Baku Jazz Festival kicked off with a concert by the Arena Big Band of Azerbaïdjan. Farah Aliyeva, the festival organiser said: «Everyone loves jazz in Baku. In the past, all the musicians wanted to come here because we were a jazz city. So since the start of the 21st century, we have been organising festivals. This year is the seventh one. Bakou could become a Mecca for jazz lovers. We want to make Baku the capital of jazz. We really do.»
Matt Bianco played the festival in 2008 mixing jazz with Latin and pop rhythms. But the jazz tradition here goes back to the 1950s when Baku was the birthplace of a style called Mugham Jazz.
Rain Sultonav, a saxophonist, said: «Jazz is free music. I can’t say that this music represents either the East or the West. When we play on stage, we transform our ideas into a single instant in the form of music and sound. Musicians don’t wonder if they’re playing music from the East or the West. We just make music, that’s all.»
Pianist Isfar Sarabski said: «My aim is to make Azeri music famous all over the world. I dream of establishing a jazz school in Azerbaijan so that our young jazz musicians can learn jazz. I want Azeri jazz to be known all over the world. So that when people hear Azeri jazz, they would say, “Wow, that’s good!”»
Azeri jazz is a sultry combination of Azerbaijani magham (مقام) and traditional American jazz. The style reached a peak of its fame in the 1950s and 1960s under the influence of composer Rafig Babayev and his Gaya quartet and of course, great Azeri jazz pianist and composer Vagif Mustafazadeh. These sounds gave Azerbaijani music its identity within the jazz genre.