From October 19 to December 6, in Switzerland, there was a ‘Seasonal Festival – Azerbaijan 2009’, held with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan. As part of these days of Azerbaijani culture, films were shown, theatrical performances were staged, exhibitions mounted, and concerts were held of jazz, classical and folk music in Berne, Basle, Geneva, Uster, Zurich and other Swiss cities.

Salman Gambarov

Jazz music was introduced by Aziza Mustafazade, Isfar Sarabski (in a trio with Christian Weber and Samuel Rohrer), Sevda Alekberzade (with her group Shirzad Fataliyev, Malik Mansurov, Elchin Shirinov, Salim Mammadov, Natiq Shirinov and Vagif Aliyev) and Salman Gambarov, who sparked Swiss people’s interest with four major projects.

I am not going to reveal all the secrets of Salman Gambarov’s magic – I prefer to remain a credulous and enthusiastic audience. But I will share with you a few details from his arsenal. So, secretly and very seriously: four of the magician’s tricks – four incarnations of a jazz musician.

1. “Latif”, or “Face to face”

On the stage, a screen. Musicians: Salman Gambarov (piano), Fakhraddin Dadashov (kemancha) and Eldar Gafarov (nagara) sit with their back to the audience. They can see each other’s faces and, most importantly, the screen. A police whistle sounds and before the audiences’ eyes appear the first scenes of the 1930s film “Latif”. Playing music along with it, the audience, as well as the musicians, are ‘face to face’ with Time.

The ‘Latif’ project was devised by Salman Gambarov in 2001 for the International Festival “New Music from the Last Century”. The festival was the idea of art theorist Jahangir

Salman Gambarov

Salimkhanov and director Ayaz Salayev. They suggested that Gambarov make this kind of synthesis – to give a modern sound to a silent film from early in the last century. “Latif” was chosen from six films considered (also titled

Salman Gambarov

“Face to Face”); it was made by Mikhail Mikhailov. In its time it was innovative: describing the world through the eyes of a ten year old boy.

As Gambarov wished, the music does not just follow the film, it responds to it with life and on many levels. He wrote six suites for the six part film; each containing improvisations as the film continues. The improvisation process also runs across different levels: in harmony, timbre, sound reflections etc. For example, the sound of the whistle seen in the film, carries three meanings. At the beginning it is a metaphor for a start: “Whistle! – and Begin!” But it also has an applied connotation. In the middle of the film it has an illustrative function, as a railway worker signals for the departure of a train. And the third time, separate whistles combine and increase to a conceptual global whistle – the musicians whistled the totalitarian regime off the stage.

The music ‘delivers ‘ the thoughts of the Bey ,who the film shows as an exploiter and an ‘enemy of the nationality’, but today, we view this character from a different perspective; in reality he is a toiler. The music speaks, from a modern perspective of the shattered fate of a boy shepherd, tethered by a Pioneer’s tie and

Salman Gambarov

separated from his natural vocation – the music to the ‘Shepherd’s Dance’ builds and builds to cacophony. The music in “Latif” describes, deliberates, comments and simply observes the time.

2. “Lieder Leaders”

There are two musicians on the stage: Salman Gambarov (piano) and Farida Mammadova (opera vocal). German romantic poetry by Ruckert, Holty etc. to music by Schubert, Brahms and Mahler – in Gambarov’s arrangement.

The idea of playing German romantic songs (lieder) in a duet with opera singer Farida Mammadova came up three years ago. But it was only realised in 2008, when the musicians were invited to the Beethoven Festival in Germany. The Swiss performance of “Lieder

Leaders” took place on November 10 and 11, 2009, in the ‘Bird’s Eye’ jazz club in Basle.

Why especially Schubert, Brahms and Mahler? The music of these composers covers the beginning, middle and end of the nineteenth century – the beginning, middle and end of romanticism. Schubert gives tone to the process, something his predecessors were unable to do: in composing for a particular poetic work, providing a context of his own music which gives new meaning to the words. The tone was caught by Salman Gambarov and continues today in “Lieder Leaders”. As an approach by a jazz musician to music of the nineteenth century – the meaning of words about love through the window of the twentieth century. Jazz music again observes Time....

3. Bakustik Jazz

This group was formed in 1996 and is in permanent movement – in their creative communication with different musicians, with different music and tours to various countries. The only constant in the group is its leader, Salman Gambarov and his purpose – constant research and playing a combination of jazz and its traditions, jazz and mugham , jazz and classical music, jazz and....

Bakustik Jazz played in the ‘Bird’s Eye’ jazz club with the following line-up: Salman Gambarov (piano), Mirjavad Jafarov (oud), Emil Hasanov (bass guitar) and Vagif Aliyev (drums). Two evenings, November 13 and 14, a packed hall, and the whole world (the concerts were shown live on the internet) were witnesses to a conjunction of times and traditions – music produced in different times, in different geographical locations and different genres, suddenly came together in ‘Bird’s Eye’ and began to ‘speak’ with the voice of ‘Bakustik Jazz’. This was a voice in which was heard Fikret Amirov and Vagif Mustafazade: the folk song ‘Sari Gelin’: the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Come Together’: an aria from ‘Carmen’ and

Salman Gambarov

‘Harda San’ by Said Rustamov: ‘Take Five’ by Paul Desmond etc...

You will say magic tricks? It did not seem like that. Simply something happening with Time.

4. Solo

A piano on the stage. At the piano sits Salman Gambarov. His four solo performances, which took place before the “Latif project, from October 30 to November 3, were held in four Swiss cities: Basle, Uster, Zurich and Kur.

What is solo performance? My Dictaphone provides Salman Gambarov’s answer: “The music is always different. This is an expansive music; you do not know either the starting point or your final destination. I feel a crazy urge to work which keeps me going and provides stimulation. In this mood I feel hot and cold at the same time, a sensation of permanent risk: a risk that I may not be ready to ‘hear’ the expanse: a risk that it may satisfy me but may not be understood by an audience. The main point is improvisation, which is in itself a risk, as it depends not only on the subjective, but also on objective factors. The composer has an opportunity to erase what he has written and reconstruct, but a jazz musician is like a sniper; he cannot stop in the middle of a concert and say: “Do you know, I think I’ll play that bit again; there was something I did not like about it.” A sound played on the stage is born in the subconscious, in a matter of seconds, like chess players. They also have in their brains millions of variations for developing their game, of which they choose only one. They have a very limited time to select. But we do not even have that amount of time. In this way, a jazz musician has to be a story teller, to have the ‘novel-writing’ ability of Chingiz Abdullayev, the

Salman Gambarov

intellect of Chingiz Huseynov, to be as light and lyrical as Vagif Samedoglu and to be as ecologically pure as Akram Aylisli. Anyway, even a writer has the chance to re-write. A jazz musician must have all these qualities, but, like a sniper, cannot afford to make a mistake. Sometimes it helps to have a reserve of musical literature in the brain. At certain points in the improvisation a theme appears at your fingertips, let’s say that it could be from ‘The Barber of Siberia’, or it could be a rhythmic structure from the ‘Bolero’, or it could be one of Stravinsky’s or Garayev’s harmonies, or from Monk... This all happens exclusively at an intuitive level and is not dictated to you consciously, but by the feeling of the moment – a feeling of Time.

”You will say magic tricks?....

Salman Gambarov

Fariza Babayeva