Teymur Fell

16 October 2012 became a particularly exciting day for the Baku’s high jazz society for a number of reasons. First, it was the opening day of the annual Baku Jazz Festival, which is impatiently awaited by jazz fans. Secondly, the festival was opened by the performance of Mike Stern, the legendary American guitarist for whom this was the first visit to Baku.

And finally, the third exciting reason was the Mike’s quarter, to be precise, the bass player who was expected in Baku long before the start of the festival…

Teymur Fell

He was born in Baku in 1987. Perhaps already then he was destined to be a man of stage because he was born to a musical family. Here, in his family, he began his path toward the world of jazz and music in general, although he did not begin playing till age 13. Teymur’s grandmother and father, famous Azerbaijani musicians and composers, Elmira Nazirova and Elmar Fell, being heedful teachers, never intentionally involved him in practising music, but helped him developed a passion for it. For as long as he remembers himself, music, discussions about various works, their students and colleagues – all of this has been associated with his life. Once he heard a jazz recording where a deep sound attracted his attention, and he asked his father to show him that instrument. This is how a bass guitar appeared in their house. The day Teymur took the bass in his hands for the first time, he realized this was his instrument.

Teymur Fell

This is when his professional training began. The young musician became so successful at it that two years later, he was performing together with his father. Thanks to Elmar Fel’s outstanding teaching talent and readiness to let his son in this complex world together with himself, Teymur attained not just strictly professional skills, but also great life experience. Other than joint concerts in Israel where they have lived since the 1990s, they have travelled a lot. Tours in Germany, Spain, Greece, Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand have become for him the period of understanding of what stage and different cultures are, and most importantly, the period of building self-confidence.

Today Teymur is in the new period of ‘clean float’ .Two years ago, he moved to the homeland of jazz where he is currently studying and working.

Teymur Fell Tima, what is it like to live away from your family and independently break a way through life?

In my family, everyone to various degrees is a fatalist. We are used to thinking that every path is prewritten with a limited right of editing. If this is my path, it will be traversed.

Was it not difficult to cut your creative connection with Elmar??

Who says it was cut? Even today when we are on different shores of the ocean, we discuss all new tasks, projects and concerts, or any interesting findings together.

Teymur Fell

Tell us how you ended up in Mike Stern’s band.

Oh, the story with Mike is one of miraculous ones. And to be honest, I wouldn’t like to ruin this feeling by some routine narrative. I can say about Mike Stern without exaggeration that he is the most indisputable authority for me. He is strikingly friendly and a people’s person. I would even call him the Great Humanist. Mike is unquestionably one of the best musicians and people that I have had the chance to meet until now. As for our first meeting, such stories are perhaps only possible in New York. Surprising luck resulted in real cooperation.

Do you know already what it takes a young bass player to be Mike Stern?

Our day and age is very different from the time when Mike Stern and his fellow musicians began to perform. It was a world with no Internet, or Youtube, or Facebook. Every album recorded by any musician meant a lot. They advanced toward their goals slowly but surely. Now everything is different. You can become famous really fast and disappear just as fast. But the base principles are always there: hard work, patience and loyalty to what you do. Considering specifics of New York, I would also add that it is not enough to be a good and talented musician. Here there are many ofthem, because this city is rightfully known as the capital of jazz. This is why simple human qualities, as strange as this sounds today, began being appreciated. I’m talking about team spirit, sincerity and simplicity. One must be loved and respected by his or her colleagues.

Did you learn improvisations of other jazz musicians by recordings? Which ones did you find the most influential?

Of course, I did. Michael Brecker, John Coltrane, Kenny Garrett, McСoy Tyner, Chick Correa… As for bass players, then it is certainly Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Eddie Gomez, and Alain Caron. Not to mention the fantastic musician John Patitucci whom I was lucky to have met and studied with.

Teymur Fell

Tell us about your interests in rock music and ethno music, if there are any.

For me, music is classified as good and bad. If it’s good rock, or ethno, or free, or… Well, it doesn’t matter which genre, as long as it is performed by prominent artists or contains emotions or touches the right chord in your soul, then I’m open to it.

Teymur Fell

But still, acoustics or electronic sound? What makes you feel more at home, a double bass or a bass guitar?

I can’t choose. Each instrument has its own purpose. In general, the choice of instrument (acoustic vs. electronic) has to do with the music performed or the members of the band I’m playing with. Personally I cannot imagine myself without either of those.

What kind of guitar and strings do you use during concerts?

I play the Yamaha TRBGP John Patitucci 6-string bass. The strings are the DR handmade strings.

How do you overcome the technical difficulties of playing the bass?

I can only say this: if I can’t do something, I have to practise. And then practise again. And keep on practising till I overcome every technical difficulty.

Teymur Fell

Does a jazz musician today require classical education; I mean going to school, a conservatoire, etc.?

The main condition laid out by Dad and Granny Elmira having to do with my professional future was receiving professional higher classical education. Back then I just agreed with them intuitively, but today I do not doubt for a second that this is the only right way.

In that case, I’ll ask you this next question bearing in mind that you’re a son and grandson of two composers. I would imagine that writing music should be something that is akin or maybe even necessary for you. Or am I wrong?

You aren’t wrong. Dealing with jazz by definition presupposes creating something new. Besides, traditions and musical preferences of my family perhaps did not go past me, as I have been planning certain projects, of which I wouldn’t like to talk about yet.

Is music always number one in your life?

Music is always number one in my life.

Tell us a few words about the music life in the States compared to Israel and Azerbaijan…

I’ll start with Azerbaijan. I can only talk about its jazz traditions with pride. Baku has long been ranking at the top on the jazz world map. I had a chance witness that personally when I attended the festival where a surprisingly educated and well-prepared audience waited for us. Israel is also renowned for its great number of amazing musicians, part of whom are successfully working abroad. As for the music life in New York, I can only say that as of now, it is the main jazz stage of the world.

Teymur Fell

Tima, this was your first performance on stage in Baku. Can you share your impression?

I have very different feelings: on one hand, I was performing at home, in my homeland, and on other hand, I feel twice the responsibility. I was happy and a bit nervous at the same time, and so was my whole family.

What attracts you in Baku the most?

In Baku, I’m attracted by many things: the happy smiles of my relatives when they’re greeting me here, the Absheron landscapes, the sounds of mugham, the traditional visits to a teahouse and a whole bunch of subtle details which I can’t name.

What would you wish young jazz musicians?

A musician’s path is complicated, and success is something temporary and insidious. Therefore I recommend making sure first that this is the only desirable path. Once that is made sure, one only has to give it full throttle and off they go!

Fariza Babayeva