Usually, at this time of day, the music shop is empty. Elbow on the counter, other hand twirling his drooping moustache, Anar was gazing through the shop window at the people passing by. He saw Ziya, he of the electrified hair, strolling in the distance. Ziya burst noisily into the shop:
- Long live the man who rid us of illiteracy! Anar, how are you doing, pal?
- No news, just the same, but why are you so edgy?
- Nothing special, I was just thinking about something. Leyla asked me to write an article about the relationship between jazz and cinema music.…
Anar looked around the shelves as he said:
- Perhaps I can help? I’ve got some discs.
- No, I’m sure that you don’t have what I need. I’m talking about jazz in Azerbaijani films.
- Ah! Like a continuation of Kukaytis’ article?


- Yes, exactly! The problem is that he completed the encyclopaedia of world cinema – he said everything – and mentioned hundreds of films, directors and the jazz musicians who played on soundtracks….and on top of all that, there was a $13 million series about jazz in America – and I have to say that in Baku we had jazz in cinema, too. Maybe there was that kind of thing once, but now there aren’t even any films!
- Hey, hold on, Ziya! Relax! From a historical point of view, the establishment of jazz in the cinema is a very interesting idea. Surely Salman’s experiment with ‘Latif’ in 2005 didn’t come out of thin air.
- Yes, that’s right, I’ve looked into it. There’s a lot you could say about it. The story began forty years ago, although I thought it was longer. Tofiq Guliyev and Rauf Hajiyev’s bands were playing jazz music as long ago as the 1940s. They wrote film music, too. But later, I came to the conclusion that when they were playing, jazz hadn’t been separated from variety music.
- Yes, I remember something – “serious” jazz and “light” variety….
- Right! This separation, in the early 1960s, began at the same time in the Soviet Union. At that time jazz moved away from song and dance and began to develop free improvisation. Musicians in small groups did it well. In those years Rafiq Babayev formed a quartet and Vagif Mustafa-zadeh had a trio, but there were also many less well-known groups. But I seem to have wandered away from the main point…. Yes, the history of the Baku ‘rendezvous’ of jazz with cinema began with the film, ‘Foreign Girl’ in 1965. It’s true that it was made by the Odessa Studio directors, Konstantin Zhuk and Alexander Seriy, but the music was composed by Bakuvian Murad Kazhlayev and Rafiq Babayev’s group, ‘Gaya’ sang it. ‘Gaya’ were also in the film – in the episode on the cruise ship….
- Did you know that the famous ‘Concertino’ by Kazhlayev won an award at the Prague Jazz Festival in 1965? Even Duke Ellington’s orchestra played it in the USA.
- Aah, interesting! I didn’t know that. Kazhlayev composed a lot of music for jazz groups and that’s why he worked so well with ‘Gaya’ for some years. Just after ‘Foreign Girl’ – in 1966 – ‘Gaya’ were on the screen in Azerbaijan in the film, ‘Service Lift’. I’m sure you remember that short film, with Khuraman Gasimova in the main role; it was soon popular. The main character’s meeting with the ‘Gaya’ vocal quartet in the lift brought a special colour to the film. Up until now, as you see, these have all been episodic meetings of jazz with cinema.
- I agree.
- The direct meeting of jazz with film happened in the documentary film, ‘Study of Azerbaijan’ by Oktay Mirgasimov. In 1969 Mirgasimov asked Rafiq Babayev to write music for the film. This was the beginning of their friendship and numerous projects together. The film, ‘‘Study of Azerbaijan’ was the start of a new era in Azerbaijani cinema art – here, for the first time, and from beginning to end, was the sound of improvised music from a jazz group. Oktay Mirgasimov, in his film, ‘Night Conversation’, gave a bigger role to jazz – in this case, Rafiq Babayev’s jazz quartet became the film’s principal ‘hero’. It was the first, and unfortunately also the last, attempt in our cinema to penetrate the inner world of jazz and the external world’s influence upon it.
I also know that most of the composers invited Rafiq Babayev to play their cinema music. After Kazhlayev, the next collaboration was playing Faraj Garayev’s music on Eldar Guliyev’s film, ‘In a Southern City’ (1969). Later, Rafiq Babayev worked with composers such as Agshin Alizade, Firengiz Alizade, Azer Dadashov, Ruhangiz Gasimova, Javanshir Guliyev, Tofiq Guliyev, Khayyam Mirza-zadeh, Emin Sabitoglu and others. He himself composed the music for twenty-three films. Perhaps you have read the article in the seventh issue of ‘Jazz Dunyasi’ magazine.
Vagif Mustafa-zadeh also worked on cinema films. It is known that he wrote the music for four documentary films: in 1973,film director Rauf Nagiyev’s ‘Trusty Hands’, the other three were ‘The Memory of Ornaments’ (1973), ‘Hunter, Don’t Kill Me’ (1977) and ‘Summer Days’ (1977), all made by Yalchin Efendiyev. Vagif is also known to have recorded music in 1973 by Arif Melikov to the film, ‘Matters of the Heart’ made in the Mostfilm studio by director Ajdar Ibrahimov….
- That is your material – Anar thought aloud – but you were saying that there was “nothing to write”.
- Let me repeat that!! – Ziya was angry – but neither Rafiq nor Vagif regarded their cinema music as jazz music. But even now, jazz musicians who compose for films – like Jamil Amirov, Salman Gambarov and Siyavush Kerimi feel the same way. And they are right! They are simply soundtracks. Write that later some of the themes were used in jazz compositions. For example Rafiq Babayev did this, but the process had nothing to do with cinema….
Just then, there was a noise:
- Hi Anar!
Hearing this, Anar and Ziya turned to see who had come in.


- Aha! Welcome! – Anar shook the hand of the newcomer. – Ziya, look, this is just the person to help you. Let me introduce him to you: professor, philosopher, psychologist, Boyukaga muellim, a great fan of music and a walking encyclopaedia…
- Oh, enough of that, Anar – Boyukaga muellim smiled, - you have almost made a statue of me…. Ok, tell me how I can help you.
- Doctor, Ziya is my friend and he’s a journalist. He’s writing an article about jazz in Azerbaijani cinema…
Studying the figure with greying hair and beard, who looked more artist than psychologist, Ziya stuck to his guns:
- I don’t think I will write the article, because there’s nothing to write. It’s a disgrace. Have you read the articles in previous issues of ‘Jazz Dunyasi’? How can we continue the theme? I told Anar the very few facts I know about jazz musicians’ work in film: in one or two films ‘Gaya’ were in a few episodes and Kazhlayev’s music was heard, ‘Night Conversation’ was mentioned in connection with Rafiq Babayev and Siyavush Kerimi wrote the music for the recent film by Ruslan Safarov, ‘Farewell My Southern City’. In this film, Shahin Novrasly plays in one of the scenes. Besides this, there is also Salman Gambarov’s ‘Latif’ project, and some other information about jazz musicians’ work in film, and that’s all – Ziya ended sadly.
Anar scratched his head thoughtfully:
- It seems to me that you’re looking at this from a narrow perspective. The problem is that you are interested more in the concrete aspects: names, quantities, comparisons… but I’m sure this is the wrong angle. For me, it would be more interesting to follow the establishment of jazz within our cinema. Do you agree with me, Doctor?
Boyukaga muellim, who had been listening attentively, smiled mysteriously:
- It would really be more interesting for me.
- Ok, let’s go with that - said Ziya, - but how can we do it?
The Doctor’s eyes lit up:
- It can be done in different ways, because the films connected to jazz were made roughly in the middle of the last century. At that time, at least it was possible to follow the development of Soviet cinema. In both western European and Soviet cinema there was a process known as the ‘new wave’ (just recall Italian neo-realism). Andrei Tarkovsky, in his book, ‘Sculpting in Time’, gave an exact definition of the new approach towards the relationship between time and place. Tarkovsky thought that the concept of time could escape the confines of the screen and the scene; time being not simply a frame for each episode but itself an object of perception. The director does not establish a new perception of reality, but rather expresses his philosophy of life and how to live each particular moment. Tarkovsky’s theory adopted the eastern philosophy of maintaining ‘silence’ in the ‘eternal moment’. In this moment there is no ‘I’, and there is no break in the conception of time. There is no past, present or future there. The famous Indian philosopher, Ramesh Balsekar, said, “The eternal moment actually means suffering. At that moment, no one suffers without cause. In this world there is only the suffering of the here and now.” There is also the concept of improvisation and this conception is the foundation of jazz.

We can approach this problem from another angle. In response to the mid 20th century Vienna School’s aesthetic, and to neo-classicism, the development of classical music also addressed the concept of improvisation. Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Hindemith could not in any way accept improvisation by musicians around their works and they demanded that musicians played their parts exactly as written. This explains why, in the 1950s, when neo-classicism was replaced by aleatoric music, Pierre Boulez, author of many rhetorical works, declared that, “eternal fetishism” had turned to fiasco and referred to the idea improvisation as, “a leap into the world of free-measure music.” (The principles of aleatoric composition are based upon this idea). The appearance of jazz in Europe at that time was completely natural.

As for the school of Baku jazz, it is impossible to conceive of it separately from that of classical composition. When recalling the first jazz ensembles, we always refer to those of Tofiq Guliyev and Rauf Hajiyev. However, both graduated from the faculty of composition. Although the composers who laid the foundations of academic music in Azerbaijan did not dedicated to jazz, all of them understood and supported it, because the concept of improvisation at the heart of this ‘alien’ music was spiritually close to mugham.


In this respect, Gara Garayev played the main role. If we retrace the confluence of jazz and cinema back to its source, we will find there Gara Garayev. Take note that all those who originated the conception of musical improvisation in film were close to Gara Garayev: Faraj Garayev – Gara Garayev’s son, Murad Kazhlayev – his student, and Oktay Mirgasimov was his cousin (by the way, Oktay Mirgasimov’s diploma work, a documentary film bout Gara Garayev won the ‘Fipresi’ prize at an international festival in 1969). It is clear that Gara Garayev supported the enthusiasm of Vagif Mustafa-zadeh and Rafiq Babayev for jazz. To confirm this we only need to recall that, in 1970, there was a jazz concert in the Union of Composers, featuring these two musicians. The concert was organised by Garayev. He had prepared for the concert over a lengthy period, he hosted the concert and, later, was punished by the party for his enthusiasm; but the government’s refusal to accept jazz music could not divert Gara Garayev from this path. He, as a truly creative artiste, felt intuitively the development of a new kind of composer: the jazz player/composer. This kind of composer - I mean by this Vagif and Rafiq – defined the conception of musical improvisation in Azerbaijani cinema. In this way, the main characteristic of cinema music consists of a moment of truth and moment of suffering.

Salman Gambarov’s experiment with the film, ‘Latif’, developed this conception from the perspective of the 21st century. Do you know how this came about? In 2001, Jahangir Salimkhanov organised an international festival, called, “The New Music of the Last Century’. Its aim was to show the relationships between contemporary, modern music and other kinds of art. Salimkhanov and Ayaz Salayev suggested that Salman could make a synthesis – to accompany a silent film from the early 20th century with music from the modern era. Actually, the film is not simply an accompaniment in a modern style, but a re-examination of a feature film. The point being that there is space in the film to allow for improvisation.


Having remained silent for a long time, Ziya could no longer restrain himself:
- Yes, right, there is space for improvisation, but there is no film itself! I completely agree with you that there are deep, rich roots to the process of mixing jazz with film in Azerbaijan but what is happening in this field today? The ‘ground’ is full of weeds! And where are the feature films which can combine improvised music with the visuals? Where is the film to reflect the philosophy of our modern times?!
Ziya understood from Anar’s expression that he had stirred up a lot of emotions, and he felt embarrassed. Trying to extricate him, Anar joked:
- Don’t mind him, Doctor, our Ziya is highly-strung.
- Really? Said Boyukaga muellim, lifting his eyebrows, it’s no problem….But this time Boyukaga muellim turned to Ziya: Young man, your asking these questions proves that there is life in the ground of our art. But you don’t see it. There is one more factor; flowers do not appear at once; they are underground for some time, then buds appear before, finally, they blossom. A flower may only have a few days’ life, but it takes months to grow. I think that our cinematic art is now in its period of growth…
- An unmade film…. – Anar said thoughtfully.
- What are you talking about?
- Rain Sultanov called his new album, ‘An Unmade Film’….
- …. It is difficult to translate the cultural code of this title. The authenticity of Azerbaijan’s cultural narratives is in mono-modalities…. ie in music – audial, painting – visual and in dance – kinaesthetic and is easy to translate. The phenomenon of cinema is an integral kind of art and for this reason the translation of culture through cinema is very difficult…. I seem to have talked a lot. Bring me a ladder, Anar. I see you have some new discs on your top shelves.
- I’ll bring them down.
- No, no, I’ll look at them all myself, - Boyukaga muellim climbed the ladder.
- Ah, how was that? Said Anar, sidling up to Ziya, - is that good material?
- I don’t know, Ziya replied, - these days who needs this philosophising! Nowadays you need to offer the reader ‘fried’ material – so they can swallow without having to chew….But perhaps there is something here. I think I’ve got it! This article will be in the form of a discussion between two imaginary heroes! It could be that all this happens in a music shop….
- The main point is that you shouldn’t forget to establish author’s rights, Anar suggested with a serious expression.
- I advise you not to be in a hurry to claim rights, Boyukaga muellim gave voice to his thoughts while climbing down, - this idea is approximately 200 years old, the German composer Robert Schumann had this idea and used it in his music magazine called, “Neue Zeitschrift fur Müsik”…. Aha! I’ve found an excellent album here!