Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Eldar Djangirov at the Jazz Standard, NYC 9/10/09

Dave Brubeck has given hotshot Kyrgyz-American pianist Eldar Djangirov the thumbs-up, and it makes sense that he would: beyond the two’s shared melodicism, both have a flair for incorporating classical motifs within a jazz framework. Djangirov’s obvious precursor – not assuming that he’s familiar with her work – is the legendary Dorothy Donegan, a ferociously powerful player who was equally at home with the blues and Rachmaninoff. Last night at the Jazz Standard, Djangirov (or Eldar, as his label prefers, given the potentially difficult surname), impressed with a vivid and heartfelt Chopinesque sensibility when he wasn’t barrelling through cascades the length of the keyboard in a blaze of Debussy-inflected color. Where was the jazz? As a great bluesman in the house remarked, this was “Euro-jazz.” Which won’t be a problem for adventurous listeners in search of innovative new talent: this guy qualifies many times over. Still, you have to wonder where his American audience is. It might be more of a rock crowd.

The rhythm section stayed out of the way for most of the show, probably due to unfamiliarity with both the material and the style, and the guest saxophonist didn’t add much on the few occasions he was given, so this became Djangirov’s show – he could have played it solo and wouldn’t have lost any fire. He opened with Exposition, the aptly titled opening cut on his new cd Virtue. It’s an ostentatious showcase for jazzing up classically-inflected hooks, and it worked until he went to his old analog synthesizer above the piano keys and then it was like Yes following Brubeck, a jaw-droppingly awkward segue to say the least. There would be a few like that later.

Insensitive, by contrast, is sarcastically titled – there’s a beautifully lyrical pop song underneath, and Djangirov brought out all the jeweled facets beneath its fluid rivulets. And then lit into an even more attractive, early Romantic style prelude that led back into the theme. Blues Sketch in Clave, also from the new cd, was neither really blues nor clave – it had more of a boisterous Brazilian rhythm – and also featured some beautiful cascading passages. Although a solo cover of the Sinatra standard I Should Care was a heavy-handed mess, Djangirov also gave it a welcome, unexpectedly ominous edge with some gypsy-inflected flourishes in the right hand. The same feeling would take centerstage on the night’s best song, Lullaby Fantasia, which alternated breakneck runs with poignant Chopinesque interludes.

On one level, following the crowd is never necessarily a good idea. But a crowd will also run from a burning building, and crowds of both rock and jazz players have run from most of the keening, woozy synthesizer sounds of the 70s simply because they’re cheesy. It’s amazing what timbre will do: Monk on the piano sounds like Monk; on a synth, it could be anything but Monk and that includes Phil Collins. That Djangirov would be unaware of that is probably a cultural tic: in much of Europe, and pretty much everywhere further east, fusion is still in vogue. While it wouldn’t be fair to label any sound or timbre completely off-limits – even the cheesiest synth has its uses, if only for comedic purposes – if he doesn’t put the thing on the shelf, at least for the jazz rooms, he’s going to get stuck with a fusion tag. Which would be too bad, because his sound innnovatively blends so many other, far more captivating styles. Still in his early twenties, there’s reason to believe this might be a passing phase. He’s at the Jazz Standard through Sunday the 13th, and considering the crowd for yesterday’s early set, reservations and/or early arrival are very highly recommended.

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September 11, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I was there last to see Eldar—He was Off The Hook—super Great——–

    Comment by Frankie Miller | September 11, 2009 | Reply


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