SALMAN GAMBAROV

It was very difficult for me to begin this article about Salman because you need some distance from your subject to describe him objectively and I have always been close to Salman.

Salman Gambarov

I am lucky; I studied with him, in the same class, at the Bulbul Music School. I say I am lucky because I am proud that my friend has achieved recognition for his musical abilities. I remember the 14 or 15 year old Salman playing in breaks between lessons and the pleasure he brought to the crowd attracted to listen. By the way, the sounds of jazz did not emerge only from our classroom; there was a kind of secret competition between classes. We were sure of our class’s superiority simply because we had our Salman.

Salman Gambarov

Nowadays, when famous jazz musicians come to Baku and take part in jam sessions, I have almost the same feelings. There’s no need to worry, because we have our Salman. I am sure he will find the ‘key’ to every musician’s style and reveal their talent and emotions. It is impossible to predict such delicious moments, which is why you should never miss a chance to see musicians new to you and whom you may never see again. Such exhilarating experiences live on with us, like a heartbeat reminding us of the joy of life. After one such spontaneous performance the well-known ‘Sax‘n Hop’ musicians invited Salman and his group ‘Bakustik Jazz’ for a three week residency in Germany and to the annual ‘Zelt Musik’ festival. The American singer Deborah Carter enthusiastically to sing with Salman Gambarov at the Baku International Jazz Festival.

Salman Gambarov

To the usual features of an experienced musician: the acquired wisdom, depth and sensitivity to others, add talent, gentle humour and speed of response. After completing a thorough education in music (he did not graduate from two faculties of the Baku Conservatory, musicology and composition, just to get a diploma) he decided that jazz was the best way to put this education into practice. He was not one to play around and wait for fate or an audience to help him on his way (how fortunate that borders have loosened in the world of jazz, although they were never too tight). Salman Gambarov’s jazz musicianship is born of a crystal intellect filtered through his soul. I remember that we tried in vain to persuade Salman to release an album, but he demands very high standards of himself and others and he could not compromise those standards to record in Baku. None of the studios have a grand piano to meet his requirements, but finally a solution was found: we were able to rent the Premises studio in London and we recorded his project "East and West?" over two days, it was released in the spring of this year. This kind of opportunity had not arisen before, but the wait proved worthwhile and the time was right.











Salman Gambarov

Bakuvians can still remember the early 1990s when the jazz star Bob Berg came to Baku. After the concert local musicians were invited onto the stage to play standards with the guests. The invitation, however, made it clear that our musicians’ knowledge of classical jazz was quite poor (we did not have a special jazz school here, there were just a few youth talented in this direction). This is why only a few were eager to play with the American saxophonist, and even those with sufficient courage did not find it easy to play with him. After this experience, Salman concluded it was high time to study the principles of jazz independently; he devised a plan and pursued it methodically. He learned standards, independently studying styles and technique from Art Tatum to Gonzalo Rubalcaba. In the various Baku clubs he played every day (or rather, every evening) to the small audience for jazz; all the while developing his talent. We can declare with confidence that Salman is now an example for today’s players;

Salman Gambarov

he is a real jazz musician. We consider Baku to be a jazz city and Salman is a worthy representative and brooks no argument as to whether his playing, composing or arranging is of jazz or not - of course, it is jazz. This is the case even in his projects with opera singers Khuraman and Fidan Qasimova, mugham singer Aygun Bayramova, or partnering pop singer Sevda Alekberzade or when he played the soundtrack for a ‘silent’ film with kermancha player Fahraddin Dadashov and nagara player Natig Shirinov.

Salman Gambarov

To be honest, when Salman plays in an unusual environment such as the Heydar Aliyev palace or on television, for a large audience, I am nervous for him (he does not like it, either). There is just one reason for my nervousness; I wonder how the audience will react when he plays the melody and then, by improvising, changes it. Sometimes it is difficult even for fellow musicians to follow the riddle he sets, but when we grasp it we are as happy as a child. But what can we do about people who don’t want to try to understand? Naturally some of the audience are confused rather than inspired and can even become angry. When this happens it can be frightening and you wonder if this mood can affect the musician and undermine his strength and self-belief. Salman, knows well that you can play the audience and draw their applause, but his beliefs and creative principles don’t allow him to use such techniques; you should not adapt your style to please the simple tastes of an audience, but should be true to yourself. Thus Salman’s admirers love him for a creativity which cannot be reduced to a simple formula.

by Jahangir Selimkhanov