Fast-Paced Jazz Piano in the Key of Eldar

Eldar Djangirov

At 18, Eldar Djangirov is already a veteran jazz performer. hide caption

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Eldar performs

Eldar Djangirov performs in NPR's Studio 4A. Julia Peck, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Julia Peck, NPR

Pianist Eldar Djangirov plays with the verve and style that one would expect from a seasoned jazz artist, but he's just 18 years old.

His parents taught him to play the piano in their native Kyrgyzstan. The first thing he remembers learning was "C Jam Blues," when he was 3. He later took classical lessons and was "discovered" at age 9 by the late New York City jazz aficionado Charles McWhorter, who saw him play at a festival in Siberia.

The family moved to Kansas City, drawn there in large part by the city's jazz history, before moving on to San Diego.

The young star enjoys popular music, citing Radiohead among his favorites, and he has a reputation for piano pyrotechnics. He plays many pieces with remarkable speed and dexterity, including a version of "Take the A Train" that races along the tracks.

But on ballads such as "Nature Boy," he manages to rein in his youthful enthusiasm.

Eldar recently stopped by NPR's Studio 4A to talk to Liane Hansen about his music, his new, self-titled CD... and to rattle the keyboard.

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