It is still possible to call Baku a city of jazz because, even in periods of difficult political and economic change, Bakuvians have always been faithful to this music. Perhaps their love for jazz helped them survive these periods as the music boosted morale. My interviewee today, Oyrat Pasha oglu Rustamzade, may be characterized as one of these people; with his rich imagination, high intellect and erudition, he is a true lover of jazz.
Oyrat muellim, as a representative of the older generation, what can you say about the development of jazz in our country?
In Azerbaijan the historical development of a jazz culture has deep roots. Thanks to the rich cultural legacy of our folk music and the highly professional level of teaching in the Azerbaijan State Conservatoire in the 1950-70 era, there was a good environment for the development of jazz musicians and composers such as Tofiq Guliyev and Vagif Mustafa-zadeh, Rafiq Babayev and others.
Each of these professional musicians formed their own groups, attracting musicians who really felt and experienced the music. Today, the establishment of Baku’s Jazz Centre, its modern equipment, acoustics, amplification and technical base supports the work of both young and more experienced musicians and builds an audience for their music.
I know that you do your best to restore the tradition of jazz in Azerbaijan and support events which help this process. One such event was the Caspian Jazz and Blues Festival.

Oyrat Rustam-zadeh

It was a pity that the Festivals organized by American Voices failed to assist the aesthetic development and taste of Baku’s jazz audience. Firstly, the musicians invited to the events had a low level of professionalism (breakdance and others). Only in the 2003 Festival was there a true talent in Toots Thielemans. Secondly, another downside was the limitation placed upon our own jazzmen’s participation in the Festivals. It seems that the supposed organizers had other purposes.
This year you were a member of the organizing committee of the International Baku 2005 Jazz Festival, and you played an active role in the organizing of the festival. Were you pleased with the way the festival went?
The aims and responsibilities of the International Baku 2005 Jazz Festival were completely different from those which went before. Twelve different jazz groups were invited from eleven countries: America, Holland, Russia, Georgia, India, Austria, Scotland, France, England, Turkey and Germany. The inclusion of participants from such a large geographical area says much. Presenting modern directions in world jazz gave the Azerbaijani jazz audience a chance to encounter musicians from a broad spectrum. Joe Zawinul and his Syndicate group’s participation brought a special colour and dynamic sound to the programme. Inviting musicians to the festival from different countries allowed us to put on top quality jam sessions to a capacity audience in the Jazz Centre. The jazz masters were free to demonstrate their skill and charm their
Oyrat Rustam-zadeh

As a jazz lover, I’d like to thank my friend and fellow jazz aficionado, Nuri Ahmedov, Farhad Badalbeyli, Rector of the Baku Music Academy, who has done so much to reanimate jazz in Azerbaijan and to the many staff of the Jazz Centre who did their best to bring to life the Baku Jazz 2005 project. I think that this has been the best event in all the history of the development of jazz in Azerbaijan.
During the festival you proved yourself not only as a capable organizer but also as a real jazz lover. I noted that you took part in practically all concerts and jam sessions and even demonstrated your vocal ability at one of the events giving the audience a nice surprise.
For me jazz is a necessity of life and a way to express my character and philosophy. Sometimes the human condition demands lyrical feelings and sentiment and sometimes expression and dynamism. Communication through jazz helps satisfy these demands and feel an inner ease; that’s why when I am in communication with jazz lovers I feel I am among friends. In this case I enjoy singing the jazz improvisations which arise in my soul. The jam sessions involving Vagif Sadikhov and Arzu Huseynov were just such an occasion. It was all very successful and I felt that participating with them was like a celebration. Believe me, I will hold those feelings to the end of my life.
Whether we wish it or not, this question arises: is it possible to perform on a stage with jazz masters without rehearsal and not to appear ridiculous? My answer is yes, it is possible, because I love jazz and I listen to the music of great players every day and I believe I am very fortunate to have jazz with me and to feel it every moment.
What was the importance of Baku Jazz 2005 International Festival, and how necessary is it for us to organize similar festivals in the future?
This festival united the whole Baku jazz audience and allowed us to experience modern jazz as played by top professional musicians. This festival has laid the foundation for the holding of annual events in the future. The performance of younger musicians: Anar Yusifov, the Beri Bakh group, Aysel and other participants showed once again that the level of professionalism here (Rain Sultanov, Salman Gambarov, Beri Bakh and others) has risen. This festival showed that the conditions exist to create a base in the Baku Music Academy for the study of jazz.
audience; the classical playing of Yakov Okun’s quartet (Moscow) Rain Sultanov and Shahin Novrasly (Azerbaijan) Udai Mazumdar (India) Sasha Mashin (Russia) Allison Miller and Nathan Peck (USA); Salman Gambarov’s extraordinary project and Tofiq Jabbarov’s jam session with the Syndicate group all made a lasting impression on my heart.
The support of all the sponsors, the active assistance of the Ministry of Culture and the organizational participation of Polad Bulbuloglu, Minister of Culture, helped us to organize a large scale, high quality celebration of jazz.