When I heard that Rain Sultanov was leaving the Jazz Centre and General Directorship of Baku Jazz Ltd, I was shocked, and felt heavy in my heart, because the Jazz Centre had a unique atmosphere and provided the opportunity to hear good music and even sample delicious food. There were regular concerts by both local and visiting musicians and Rain Sultanov also left the legacy for future generations of two great jazz festivals. During the two years of his tenure at the Jazz Centre I followed its development and witnessed the hard-won improvement in its popularity. I saw the seasonal openings, concerts by 'Berlin Voices', 'Lola Morales', Jiansili Trio, Leonid Ptashko, Kenny Wheeler, many 'tribute' nights and so many other memorable events. In these two years we were always sure of discovering something new and interesting for ourselves. The news of his departure has caused some confusion within the city, especially among regular visitors to this prestigious venue. I tracked Rain down to get his view of the situation.

Rain Sultanov

- Rain, why did you leave the Jazz Centre?

- Firstly, I was not going to work in the Jazz Centre forever. I wanted to continue with my musical work, play on the stage, play new music, take part in different jazz festivals and record my own albums. I believe I had completed my mission, raised the level of jazz in Baku; Baku Jazz Centre is now known around the world and everyone has heard of the festivals held in Baku. I am happy that there is a stronger feel for good music among our youth. Of course there was more to be done ….

- But what interrupted this, two years is not a long time….

- Yes but I was able to bring many good people came together in that time. The Jazz Centre took up so much of my time; a good organiser has to dedicate himself completely to his work. It was impossible to combine both my music and management, and one of them had to go. Creation is everything for me, and this behind my leaving the Jazz Centre.

- As a professional musician, how did you feel in the position of director of the Jazz Centre?

-It seemed quite normal to me. I felt at home in the Jazz Centre because, as well as music, I am well aware of other aspects of the business. I like experimentation in life and searching out new forms of music. The Jazz centre demanded that you use all your knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the best results.

- How did you decide to hold a Jazz Festival in Baku?

- It was one of my dreams to organise a jazz festival in Baku. In 2002 I was one of the organisers of the 'Caspian Jazz & Blues Festival'. The organisers made some mistakes and one ex-pat woman showed a lack of respect for our traditions: I vowed that, if I had the chance, I would organise a festival different to all the others. I am proud of the "Baku Jazz 2005" and "Baku Jazz 2006" festivals. I am the producer of the "Baku Jazz Festival" and I take responsibility for every detail.

- How did you manage to bring such famous musicians to our city?

- I have talked about this many times; it carried a heavy responsibility, but it mainly fell to me. It was clear that their visits would create some kind of resonance around the world.
Rain Sultanov

I understood that even one musician of this level coming to Baku would affect the politics of the music world in Azerbaijan. They would alter the cultural outlook of Azerbaijan and open its doors to the world. Perhaps it was because I understood the responsibility that I was able to bring about the successful visits of Al Jarreau and Herbie Hankcock. It was not easy to organise a world class festival, leaving participants with a good impression of the festival, acquire the necessary technical equipment and meet all the other demands. It had to be organised so that in future these musicians' managers wouldn't talk among themselves and refuse to come back. There is nothing easier than to upset people, which is why I would encourage future organisers of even small-scale concerts to act with similar responsibility so as not to destroy the good will already created.

- Are you going to organise a festival again? If you are, where and what kind?

- For the moment I can only say that I am working now on an album which I have been trying to do for two years. As for festivals, anything could happen - I will probably organise my next festival in Germany.

- This is very interesting news. You're talking about an Azerbaijani-German project?

- Yes, of course. I'm planning a group from Azerbaijan, mainly of talented youth, but there will also be musicians from other countries of the former USSR.

- Can you tell me about the new album you are recording?

- This recording is a very important event in my life; the project is called, 'Talking about my native land'. I am trying to express all my feelings about my homeland in the language of music, particularly focussing on two generations, children and old people. Children are our future, the aged are our parents, history, our past. The music on the album expresses sorrow for the children who have lost their homes and parents and our concern for those who are living out the last days of their lives; as well as our heartache over the lost territories. These are all the feelings I experience today. Only acoustic instruments will be used in this project. It's not easy, to be honest, but I really want to make it a success. I want to enliven the music with a documentary video; the 'Talking about my native land' project will be a video disc. I think this album will be my best work yet; it will encapsulate many of the moments which I haven't yet been able to express in the language of music and will communicate to the world my native land, its problems and our people.

- Anyway, I'd like to return to the beginning of our conversation. It would be interesting to hear your views on the future of the Jazz Centre and on jazz life in general in our city….

- I can only say that anyone in a position of leadership should be professional. The Director of the Jazz Centre should not only be proficient in jazz, but should be knowledgeable about all kinds of music. Any other way is impossible because there are times when it is useful to know about the music, instruments, their functions, sounds and other aspects; organising, balancing and checking programmes depends on this kind of knowledge. I hope very much that the development of jazz in Baku will continue. There is a very good base and opportunities are increasing, year by year. Today's musicians have the chance to demonstrate their talent abroad, study there and develop. There are all kinds of opportunities for today's youth; young musicians can see live those players about whom we could only dream of hearing on a cassette. They can show their skills in festivals alongside professional musicians. All of these things must have a positive affect on Azerbaijan's culture. For my part, I will do my best to help jazz music develop in Baku and I will try to disseminate information about our jazz far and wide in the world. There is much to be done and we should not waste a moment.

by Nadejda Safarova