So, in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, September saw the II International Festival of Jazz Music, "Astana Blues". Azerbaijani jazzmen also took part in this festival: 'Bakustic Jazz' group, led by jazz composer and pianist Salman Gambarov. I had the chance to watch the video, hot off the press, of our compatriots' performance and, honestly, it was a privilege to watch the beautiful, precise playing of our musicians and to witness the audience reaction. I should note, too, that Salman Gambarov invited singer Sevda Alekberzade to participate in the performance; the organisers had asked for ethnic music with vocals.

I have observed Salman's creative progress over a long period - I can say that Salman has long had pieces in his repertoire that other musicians are only now discovering. For example: the finest arrangement of 'Sari Gelin' was first played for a large audience at the Baku Jazz and Blues Festival in 2002. In the same year Salman arranged the well-known song, 'Alvida' for Sevda Alekberzade - the arrangement was performed at Astana: with the synthesiser of Jamil Amirov replacing the original trumpet. Salman commented as follows to your correspondent:

- This is not my first project with a vocalist; in 1999, with 'Bakustic Jazz' , at the ethno-jazz festival in Cologne, was singer Aygun Bayramova. Following this have been projects with the well-known Aygun Beyler and opera singers Fidan and Khuraman Gasimova. Last year saw the release of the album 'East or West?' - recorded in London in 2000; supplementing 'Bakustic Jazz' then was jazz vocalist Anar Tagizade, now living in Sweden. This is why the project with Sevda Alekberzade is just one of many projects with singers. I'd like to mention that a key factor in collaborative projects with singers is that you can't 'tune' them to jazz; thus they sing what they can and we play as necessary.

- Are you planning a new project of this kind?

- Yes, there are some plans. I have begun a project with opera singer Farida Mamedova. The project will feature music by Schubert, Mahler and Brahms. I also want very much to work with Honoured Artist of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Zeki, who has her own interesting singing style and timbre. The main factor in all of these projects is time.

- What can you say about the festival in Astana?

- Only very nice words: the festival was very well organised. Besides, any festival is a chance to communicate with other musicians, to show yourself off and to see others. In this respect there were no problems; even beforehand we received an invitation to one of next year's jazz festivals.

- It only remains for me to wish you and 'Bakustic Jazz' new creative success.

by Rovshan Sananoglu