Eldar Djangirov: A Young Jazz Star Goes It Alone The pianist Eldar Djangirov made his first tours and commercial recordings before he even left high school. Now 24, he's just released Three Stories, a solo album. Here, he discusses his artistic growth and his work with middle-schoolers.
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Eldar: A Young Jazz Star Goes It Alone

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Eldar: A Young Jazz Star Goes It Alone

Eldar: A Young Jazz Star Goes It Alone

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In 2005, jazz pianist Eldar Djangirov appeared on our program. He sat at the piano in our performance studio, 4A, and played his arrangement of the Thelonius Monk tune, "Ask Me Now". I swear you could almost see sparks flying off the keyboard.

(Soundbite of music, "Ask Me Now")

HANSEN: Eldar was 18 years old then and a month away from his high school graduation. He already was a seasoned performer and recording artist. He's now 24, on tour. He played the Kennedy Center this past week, and he's just released a new CD called "Three Stories."

(Soundbite of music, "Ask Me Now")

HANSEN: Earlier this week, Eldar inspired an even younger group of musicians.

Mr. ELDAR DJANGIROV (Jazz Pianist/Composer): It's something that I want you guys to always think about, the drums and the way you place the note. Right?

HANSEN: He visited the Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Virginia and worked with the student jazz band.

Mr. DJANGIROV: So one, two, a one, two, three, four.

(Soundbite Kenmore Middle School Jazz Band)


HANSEN: Eldar Djangirov is back in an NPR studio with me.

It is so nice to see you again.

Mr. DJANGIROV: Absolutely a pleasure to be here.

HANSEN: I want to know about your working with kids. Are they excited about jazz these days?

Mr. DJANGIROV: I think so. I think the love for music is as healthy as ever.

(Soundbite of Mr. Djangirov with students)

Unidentified Child: Okay, so...

Mr. DJANGIROV: So when you go, the rhythm of the whole things...

(Soundbite of piano music)

HANSEN: It's interesting that you're working with middle school students, because the last time we talked you said that it was really cool for you in middle school. That was when you loved going to school.

Mr. DJANGIROV: Yeah. I mean, you know, it's always ups and downs, you know, in that age. But I think, you know, when they hear music so early I think they register it as a positive memory. And that can have a profound effect on how they appreciate music when they grow up.

(Soundbite of piano music)

HANSEN: You take quite a few liberties with some of the classics, the standards. And it's - I mean did you plan it this way? It's almost seamless that you can go from an etude into, you know, a Bud Powell.

Mr. DJANGIROV: With this particular record the reason it's called "Three Stories" is because the majority of the repertoire on it is derived from three directions: jazz standards, original compositions and classical themes. So that particular repertoire can connect to so many different audiences, I feel like. And audiences can get something from that record. And I'm very happy to do it because I feel like part of the art is to connect to people.

(Soundbite of piano music, "Russian Lullaby")

HANSEN: What about "Russian Lullaby?"

Mr. DJANGIROV: "Russian Lullaby," I was playing - actually, one of the pieces on the record is a Scriabin piece. And he is a master of short-form pieces. And one of the things that I wanted to do is write a piece that has a certain amount of lullaby in it. You know, and the thing is that to my mom, I remembered when she first started giving me lessons and she's kind of like the, I don't want to say the puritanical like Russian piano teacher, but she had enough patience for me and love, but she was very strict. And just the things that I began playing and the things - because she wanted, you know, she was teaching me 100 percent classical. So I guess it's kind of like a nod to her.

(Soundbite of piano music, "Russian Lullaby")

HANSEN: You practice. You compose. You play. You perform. You travel. You're 24. Do you have a life?

Mr. DJANGIROV: Yeah, that is my life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DJANGIROV: Yeah, definitely. I...

HANSEN: No regrets, nothing? I mean there's the thing else you'd rather do.

Mr. DJANGIROV: I, you know, I feel like to be honest, well, I never had a choice not to do it.

HANSEN: Oh, but do you resent that or is that okay?


HANSEN: No, you don't.

Mr. DJANGIROV: I never because I definitely could have quit. Could've quit when I was in, you know, and not even going into my teens. Because music, I, you know, I don't really remember not playing music ever. And my dad, you know, the way he really got into jazz, he has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and he was traveling all over the Soviet Union on different projects. And really, he would just get jazz records in what would be the black market, because they weren't exactly legal.

But he had a huge collection of jazz records; hundreds, and hundreds and hundreds of records spanning, you know, the entire evolution of the music. And by the time that I was born, it was kind of like a very convenient situation with my mom starting out with the classical training. And my father was constantly playing jazz in the house. So the bond between my parents was basically based on music.

So I had a choice not to play music when I was older. But when I started out it was definitely something that was part of the air.

HANSEN: And you chose to continue to play music. And it doesn't seem to be a tough choice, was it?

Mr. DJANGIROV: No, it wasnt a tough choice because I was already so deep into it and it was something that was so ingrained in me. You know, it was part of my personality that there was no way I could abandon home. You know, that was where I felt at home. You know?

HANSEN: And where you're happy.

Mr. DJANGIROV: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

HANSEN: Eldar Djangirov, his new CD is called "Three Stories."

Thanks so much for coming back to talk to us.

Mr. DJANGIROV: Thank you, Liane.

HANSEN: You can hear songs from "Three Stories" at NPRMusic.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Liane Hansen.

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