The catalyst for this article was a site I came across on the internet called, 'Frozen Jazz'. The authors, S Belichenko and V Kotelnikov had dedicated themselves to research into jazz in Novosibirsk, but their memories inspired us to pore again over the creative journey taken by Rafiq Babayev, one of the founders of jazz in Azerbaijan. They explained to us the origins of the jazz-based friendship between Baku and Novosibirsk. This history was illustrated by the photograph of Bill Evans which Babayev preserved so carefully throughout his life. On the photograph, which was presented to him in 1969 by the Novosibirsk jazz club 'Quadrat' (Square), were these words: "For Happy Memories, Rafiq Babayev. Novosibirsk - Baku - Jazz Remember."

Rafig Babayev

I believe that Rafiq Babayev's contact with jazz in Novosibirsk dates back long before his appearance in 'Quadrat'. It seems that first contact was made in 1957, in Moscow during a World Youth Forum. Babayev was taking part in the Forum as a jazz pianist, but musicians came from Novosibirsk as "'wild tourists' to listen to other musicians and to exchange experiences with them" (from 'Frozen Jazz'). His next meeting with colleagues from the Siberian city was at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s. He formed his first combo and toured throughout the Soviet Union; unfortunately no evidence survives to prove that Bakuvians were in 'the native land of Soviet avant-garde jazz' (as Novosibirsk was later called).
The only opportunities for Soviet jazz musicians to mix with colleagues and co-thinkers were provided by tours around the Union. As a rule, these kinds of meetings took place in youth clubs or cafes which gave 'asylum' to the unconventional at that time. The broadening organisation of festivals provided maximum opportunity for Soviet jazz musicians to maintain contact. As an example, Vladimir Vittikh's group, representing Novosibirsk's avant-garde, made its debut in the 1966 jazz festival in Tallin. Vittikh was an ardent supporter of the '3rd Movement'. "Vittekh combined classical music with the rhythms of jazz and this greatly annoyed devotees of both forms of music" (from 'Frozen Jazz'). In Soviet times it was more acceptable to combine with jazz and ethnic music than to experiment with classical music. In this respect Baku representatives Rafiq Babayev's quartet were popularly accepted for their work with mugham-based jazz and, were cheered loudly for their 1966 performance in Tallin and did not arouse the same controversy as their fellow musicians from Novosibirsk.

Rain Sultanov

The next Tallin festival, in 1967, represented the whole of Soviet jazz society and increased the musicians' self-belief, opening new avenues of development and closer communication. Thus Babayev's quartet and Vittikh's sextet had the opportunity to popularise and proclaim their work, make records and develop the Baku-Novosibirsk relationship. Thus the words on the Bill Evans photograph presented to Rafiq Babayev trace back to the Tallin festivals.
The 'Quadrat' jazz club was founded in Novosibirsk in 1967. Some jazz activists moved to the cafe 'Otdikh' (Relax) to form the movement we mentioned. The jazz club was home to lecturers, promoters and record collectors and a jazz group was formed; many touring groups played here. In summer 1969, Zagreb's jazz quartet played a great concert here; undoubtedly one of the best received groups was Rafiq Babayev's quartet, but German Lukyanov and the young saxophonist Vitaliy Shemankov also played there. "Thus a mini festival was held in our club, called Novosibirsk Jazz Nights. But we used the name of the cafe so as Novosibirsk not to arouse the suspicions of the authorities." (from 'Frozen Jazz').

What kind of music were they playing then? As there are no records of the time we can only speculate; it is an interesting question - Why was Babayev given Bill Evans' photograph? Because his work was connected with that of the American pianist at the time. (His improvisations in his film music of the time prove this; for example music for the film 'In a Southern City' composed by Faraj Garayev and played by Babayev in the style of Bill Evans).

On 1st October, 1969, the newspaper 'Za Nauky Sibiri' (Siberian Science) published an article called 'Sibirsky Jazz Vechera' (Siberian Jazz Nights). It described an evening in the 'Quadrat' club. V Kotenikov wrote, "Jazz contacts were established with a Baku quartet. Baku is without doubt one of the Jazz cities of the USSR." In writing about the establishment of this relationship the writer means the reciprocal invitation issued by Rafiq Babayev to his Novosibirsk colleagues to attend the 'Golden Autumn 69' festival in Baku. Babayev. At the end of October A Medzdrikov and S Belichenko were guests of the Baku festival. They were taken aback by the kind of hospitality normally seen only in fairy tales.
Bill Evans

The relationship between the two cities continued to develop. In April 1970 the newspaper 'Baku' published an article entitled, "The best Jazz quartet came from Baku." There was a report of the festival which had taken place in Kuybishev and it noted that Babayev's quartet and V Presnyakov's trio were laureates of the festival. Among other appreciations from festival juries and participants were the sincere words of 'Quadrat' leader Medzdrikov, "This is a shining example of Caucasian jazz, being interesting, highly polished and sure of touch."

The words we cite next will take us on an imaginary trip to the musical environment of Novosibirsk, summer 1971. While on tour there, Rafiq Babayev wrote to his wife; "The concerts have gone pretty well. In fact the audiences were not so large, about 70 or 80% of the hall was full, because there were a number of good bands here at the same time. There were: the Moscow New Brigantine Music Hall with Mirov and Novitsky, Romanian Variety, Japanese Estrada Review and a Jazz Ensemble from Yugoslavia (S Bilichenko writes of the Japanese orchestra "Diez & Bemolls", led by Nobua Haar, "This is a highly professional orchestra whether playing pop music, Japanese melodies or jazz"). Our meetings were very pleasant, the Yugoslavs are a very good quartet and we played together throughout the night. Nearly all the Moscow Music Hall came to our concert; they included Polish and Czech musicians, and they all liked our playing. The Czech and Polish musicians came every day; they stayed until the middle of the second set and then ran out to play their own concert (at that point in the set we stopped for Rashid to sing)". There was, however, one negative aspect of this jazz paradise; Rafiq continues, "The problem is that all the musicians are staying on the same floor of the same hotel. Imagine what this means - in a word, the whole floor stays up until 6 or 7 in the morning."
The end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s saw a revolution in Soviet jazz. Kotelnikov and Babayev were of the same opinion.

V Kotelnikov: "The profile of the most popular music in those years was like this:- Vocal Instrumental Ensembles were in great demand and they released huge numbers of records. Jazz was entirely overshadowed, but perhaps this worked to jazz's advantage."
Rafiq Babayev (1970s interview): "This is the paradox, the fashion for jazz hadn't passed. The blue and red, singing and sad guitars, the twists and rhythms weren't jazz. Jazz was in fashion and was heard with great interest, but not always understood. Now we have lost a number of fans, but those who really appreciate jazz and whose tastes are not met by commercial music are still with us."

Kotelnikov came to a very interesting conclusion when he looked back at the problem from the viewpoint of the 21st Century. "This natural drift away by those who had a superficial grasp of jazz resulted in a unique phenomenon, symbolically termed a 'jazz medal'. The musicians involved took jazz into their inner life and it became their moral support.
The pioneers of Soviet jazz in the 60s, by launching into a new music would either die or be forgotten or else re-interpret their existence within jazz and understand that jazz is a different world in which not everyone can exist."
For the jazz scene in Novosibirsk, the end of the 60s was a 'laboratory'. Perhaps most of that generation had a natural feel for research. Rafiq Babayev also noticed this in his later interviews. In jazz, American traditions brought their multifarious influences to bear in a compromise between classical and ethnic music. The musicians of Novosibirsk, in their experimentation, were moving away from American free jazz. Bakuvians, too, were looking for a contemporary language which could also carry Azerbaijani tradition. Rafiq Babayev said, in an interview in the 90s, "We have our folk music, our mugham. They are an endless resource; our trust and inspiration in this tradition allows us to produce fantastic music." I believe that the interest in jazz research shared by Baku and Novosibirsk is partly explained by the cities' position on the administrative map. Both cities are on the border of Europe and Asia and thus open to the music of different worlds. This resulted, in the 1960s, in Bakuvians combining, to great effect, mugham and jazz and, in the 1980s and 90s, the jazzmen of Novosibirsk opening up to Monsi, Tuva, Altay and Yakut folk music. In the 70s Bill Evans himself also noted the usefulness of such research to the development of jazz: "It is impossible to stop the development of music. I'm sure that after Bach, Mozart, Scriabin, Stravinsky, Art Tatum and Bud Powell many people thought that everything possible had been done. The same was said about Coleman Hawkins' playing on the tenor saxophone, but after him along came John Coltrane and whole new avenues of exploration. If music wasn't based on a twelve tone scale there would be unlimited opportunities for development."

Today most of the heroes of this article are no longer with us, but the Novosibirsk-Baku jazz venture continues. The traditions established by the founders of Azerbaijani jazz were followed in 1998 by 'Syndicate' and in 1999 by 'Bakustik Jazz'. Today we can keep up a dialogue with the writers of 'Frozen Jazz' beyond time and place. The day will soon come when musicians from Novosibirsk will play on the stage in Baku. This hope gives rise to the belief that in the world of jazz there is no fixed time or place. In this living process, peoples, cities, times and moments are able to communicate and affect.

by Fariza Babayeva