On 25 December, 2012 the Baku Jazz Center hosted the concert of virtuoso bassist Rauf Sultanov, a musician of the older generation of jazz players.

Rauf Sultanov’s modern jazz quintet including
Elbey Mammadzadeh
Allahyar Rustamov
Bilal Hasanov
and Salim Rzayev

Rauf Sultanov

The concert was timed, as the musicians were joking, to the failed end of the world, but it in fact was a youth talent show, where each of the young musicians could prove themselves to the fullest. After the performance, we asked the band leader Rauf Sultanov a few questions.

JD: What are the prospects of jazz in Baku and what you think of the music-oriented youth of our city?

Rauf Sultanov: They’re not hopeless. Talents are being born, as the Azerbaijani people are talented and sensitive to music. Our history in the Soviet Union can attest to that. I recall an experience in Moscow. At a jazz festival, I happened to witness a conversation between musicians where one said: ‘Be careful while performance; we’ve got some musicians here.’

Nine climatic zones out of eleven, rich subsoils… Her Majesty Music is the most tender and delicate of all the arts mankind has ever discovered. Of course, including mugham being a universe, light, sorrow, joy, and prayer, passed on to us by our far-sighted ancestors… European classical music is grace, stability, compassion and love. Jazz is everything together, an international medium of communication, and intellect all of which are what our youth are in dire need of.

I think that we have enough abilities and power, passed on to us by the coryphaei, as an important element of the music discipline in general. We just need philanthropists and executives.

Rauf Sultanov

JD: How should our musicians be directed?

Rauf Sultanov

Rauf Sultanov: To develop this delicate form of art, an independent committee consisting of professional musicians should be established at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan. The second stage is to found a jazz school through a contest-based selection of the most talented. Hiring foreign instructors would also be an asset.

Rauf Sultanov

JD: Is there a bass school in Baku?

Rauf Sultanov: There isn’t. In general, there isn’t a jazz school in Baku in any of its sub-genres. I think this is a question of time.

Rauf Sultanov

JD: How do you understand jazz?

Rauf Sultanov: Jazz is the philosophy and language of international communication. It long changed from being a national phenomenon to international. It is an organism which runs growingly within the space of time, absorbing the most valuable and meaningful things. Just like mugham in the Oriental part of the world. As I said earlier, we have the genetic code. We are close to the confluence of the East and the West like no others; conflicting polarities, as they now refer to the style of ethno-jazz.

This process has already started. Some well-known musicians are diving in this direction. This happens here too. Let us look back and remember our coryphaei. This is stated in the Jazz in Azerbaijan encyclopedia. Vagif Mustafazadeh and Rafig Babayev. They opened the doors through which we walked in. If we come back to the present, I can note some modern musicians who have made outstanding syntheses of jazz and mugham. The ideal synthesis is probably awaiting us in the future. And I would like to believe and hope that by choosing the right way and using the values at hand, we will open the sixth gate, and important jazz festivals of the world, and perhaps other civilizations, will turn their eyes on us.

Rauf Sultanov