JAZZ VETO OR JAZZ IS JUST FOR THE YOUTH?

It pained me to hear it said of a man, once known as a dynamic and popular jazz musician, that his time had gone.
These words were thrown away in conversation but, in truth, the speaker had no right to say this about a musician who has made such a great contribution.



His mother, Shafiga Alisultanqizi Majidova, was an opera singer and a member of the great Uzeir Hajibeyov's company. She often talked about her fond memories of that time to little Javanshir. She once described the time they were on tour in Moscow and she noticed a pipe-smoking, tunic-wearing man in the audience who was listening very attentively to the opera: it was Stalin. Fascinated by these stories, Javan decided that when he grew up he wanted to be an artiste.

Javan Zeynalli

Javan was a physically weak child and studying violin for four years in music school would have been very difficult for him; thus they moved him to piano class. Later, while studying in the theory and composition faculty of the Asaf Zeynalli Music School, he imitated the singing of Muslim Magomayev. He couldn't have dreamed that this light-hearted action would determine his life's direction. A teacher in the Vocal Department, Alexander Melovanov, heard him and suggested that he should concentrate on singing, promising that he could become one of the best baritones in Europe. Javan had no idea of the vocal potential hidden inside himself but from that time began a period of practical rehearsal and acquaintances with famous musicians. Javan Zeynalli had the honour to work with and befriend Vagif Mustafa-zadeh. Recalling that time he says:
"We were studying in the radio factory and when music drifted out of a hall; I went closer and saw Vagif for the first time in my life and I liked his playing.

Javan Zeynalli

But no matter how much I tried, I couldn't get to meet him. The chief editor of the newspaper 'Baku' at that time, my friend Haji Babayev, thought a little and sent me to interview Vagif. I went to their place; Ziver Khanim opened the door and invited me in. Believe me, I was so nervous that my hands were shaking and I could never have imagined that I would become friends with a man I worshipped. But later we became friends and worked together. We were preparing a programme for a European tour on the ship 'Azerbaijan' with Vagif; we rehearsed for nearly six months, but it became clear that Vagif would not be able to make the tour…."

Javan Zeynalli

After working with Vagif Mustafa-zadeh, Javan Zeynalli was a soloist in the Rashid Behbutov Song Theatre and toured many countries with them, earning the love and support of his audiences. His repertoire included the songs of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Al Jarreau. The chance to perform with well-known Soviet musicians naturally inspired the young musician but he realised, even then, that a talented musician who attracts acclaim also becomes a target.

Javan Zeynalli

"Today there are many changes and opportunities in the country, but when I see that some musicians don't even greet each other I am saddened. Even when I worked and had a good schooling with Rashid Behbutov, I understood there were people who appeared friendly but were in fact jealous. This is the fate of talented people, but why does it happen, and what's the reason for such behaviour? That was long ago and I think people should be kinder than before. Perhaps they envy your talent and opportunity, being different from others and being able to do some things better than others. Maybe they envy me for overcoming difficulties and creating a good life for myself with a reasonable income. When I see sour-faced musicians on stage I feel sorry for them; there is such a thing as stage culture. It was so pleasant to see foreign musicians smiling to each other after concerts and Hancock kissing Sarah Vaughan's hand. I'd like Bakuvians to be as kind to each other."
Javan came to Qaya towards the end of their popularity, but his joining proved to be eventful; he became their 'pulse'. It was a great experience to work with this legendary group for twenty years. Javan Zeynalli was always most interested in working solo, but he couldn't resist such a seductive offer.
Javan Zeynalli

It wasn't easy to replace a singer such as Lev Yelisavetsky; group leader Teymur Mirzayev finally settled on Javan after searching for half a year. He tried to persuade Javan that quartet work was very useful for a vocalist, even reminding him that Javan's favourite singer Frank Sinatra had worked with the 'Hi-Los' quartet.

Javan Zeynalli

Javan Zeynalli has never regretted his decision; he has always accepted that his career worked out this way. The years with Qaya gave him irreplaceable experience and audience support.
"Have you any idea what kind of concerts we gave! I will never forget our cruise concerts with Oleg Lundstram's Big Band; playing 16 concerts on the shores of the Black Sea with singers Irina Otiyeva and Larisa Dolina - these are part of our history. I was always fond of jazz and dedicated myself totally to it - listening avidly to legendary singers and trying to sing like them. I have a large collection of jazz singers' audio and video cassettes. That's why no one can accuse me of being unfaithful to jazz!"

Javan Zeynalli and Vagif Mustafa-zadeh

After the break up of Qaya, Javan Zeynalli returned to his solo career, playing in restaurants, trying to raise people's spirits in a difficult time for Baku and preserving jazz which was in danger of dying out. In a period when musicians were dispersing, jazz lovers went to the White Club to hear Javan and 'Georgia' warmed their hearts, giving them hope for the future.

Javan Zeynalli

At this time, Javan began to explore different avenues of music alongside his jazz. Boring armchair jazz critics could have many an argument about which genre his songs belong to. But what made him include in his repertoire estrada songs such as those by Tofiq Quliyev, Rauf Hajiyev and others? Some say that his jazz creativity has flatlined in the last ten years.
Maybe Javan's turn to Estrada arose out of his desire to increase his audience, respond to changing times and increase the respect in which he is held? I think this is a matter for debate.

Javan Zeynalli

"Why do they think that I have left jazz behind? This is not true. I have always sung jazz; folk songs and composers songs have always received my own jazz treatment. I can do it no other way, I sing with the 'melisms' that only jazz singers use. I am a singer and can sing either Sinatra or Tofiq Quliyev, they can't be incompatible. Why don't people comment when Petrucciani plays 'Besame Mucho' or Armstrong sings 'Those Black Eyes'?
Besides this, I am a pianist, I can play piano too. My ability to play and sing well makes some people envious and unable to accept me; this has become worse recently. Musicians don't come to my concerts although I try to follow their music. I often ask myself, Why is it like this?"

Javan Zeynalli

I'd like to end by saying that it's the work of critics to discuss other people. Whether Javan Zeynalli plays jazz today or not, it's true that every talented musician has ups and downs in his career and it is better to think carefully before reproaching someone.

by Leyla Efendiyeva