There are jazz experts, jazz lovers and a jazz audience in Azerbaijan, but we have to admit that those journalists who write about the music are far less knowledgeable than the musicians they judge. Articles about the concerts and festivals which feature foreign musicians relegate their local colleagues to the shadows even though their playing is certainly no worse. For example, how many articles are there about Salman Gambarov? - a talented and sensitive musician who harmonises around folk melodies and who showed his talent in arranging the music for Latif Safarov's film, 'Peasants'. Last year in the Kapellhaus, Gambarov's outstanding concert with Aygun Humbatova (it's no secret that her provincial appearance arouses gossip which hinders her progress) reached a peak of professionalism. This concert, arranged especially for ex-pat guests, was rewarded with a standing ovation from the audience, but it received no serious coverage in the press. The weakness of music criticism and the lack of information about jazz has left the musicians in a kind of social and cultural vacuum in Azerbaijan. As a result, jazz has become an underground music.

Emil Ibrahim

But let's talk about something more uplifting. For example, talented jazz pianist Emil Ibrahim's recent concert with American singer Lola Morales.
These two musicians were brought together by Londoner, composer and guitarist Richard Hillman who is currently working in Baku for English Language Solutions as a teacher of English. After hearing Emil play Richard suggested he play with his long-time collaborator Lola Morales. Hillman remembers his meeting with Lola this way," I met her twelve years ago in Ecuador at a friend's place. I have composed about twenty songs especially for her with my own lyrics. At the moment she's living in London and singing at the Mezzo Club. We've jointly written about fifteen songs in the last two years; I like her singing style, it's from a typically bright American temperament. She was born and brought up in San Francisco, but her parents are originally from Nicaragua.

Lola Morales

Lola Morales, together with Emil Ibrahim's group, performed at the Jazz Centre and the Jazz Club; I was only able to see the whole concert in the Jazz Club. The set started with Richard and Lola singing as a duo, Richard accompanying on guitar. Both songs ('Trust the Fall' and 'Any Way you Need') were quiet and melodic, close to a country style; they were suited to an Anglo-Saxon temperament. Perhaps this will upset Richard, but I think Lola's Latin temperament was really brought out when she played with Emil's group: -
Ruslan Huseynov, bass guitar, Sergey Krasnyansky, drums and Tofiq Jabbarov, tom-toms and other percussion. Lola's singing manner combines jazz, soul and Latin funk (Latin American dance rhythms). As she said, eight songs in the set, and the encore, were her own compositions; also included were songs from Sade and Santana. The most interesting songs were based on Latin melodies ('La Vida en Tu Amor' and 'Volando'). With these songs of a Latin temperament, incorporating typical dance rhythms (mambo, salsa) and celebratory, life-loving mood, Lola found her way into her listeners' hearts. It has to be said that she made mistakes, too; for example, occasionally she was too loud, but perhaps this was a technical problem. However, the singer's lively but relaxed stage presence and movement, along with her appearance were to her advantage. The musicians were a bonus too; they added light to the programme.

Lola Morales

It is a shame that little has been written about a pianist and composer, who although he is only thirty, is accepted as one of the leading musicians in Baku's jazz world: Emil Ibrahim. At the Jazz Club concert, a representative of UNESCO couldn't understand why he had not yet released an album. Yes, the realities of life here are absurd and it is difficult for those living outside these realities to understand us. But I promised not to talk about depressing things.
Emil's style is distinctive for its inner dynamism, great power and vitality. I think his creative talent exceeds that required by our auditorium. He rarely improvises around Azerbaijani folk melodies, he does not speculate on the traditions at the base of our national music. But once I heard him play a composition, 'Zibeyde' by Tofiq Quliyev, which demonstrated his understanding of the music of the Fifties in Baku. One of his most interesting
Eml Ibrahim and Lola Morales

improvisations was on the song 'Bessame Mucho'. He is most interested in the synthesis of Latin American music and jazz. Perhaps this was why Emil in tandem with Lola Morales was so successful. Out of politeness he played so as not to overshadow her singing, but his talented playing, along with the solos of Tofiq Jabbarov, Sergey Krasnyansky and Ruslan Huseynov made the concert a sensation. After the concert I asked Lola Morales and Richard Hillman for their thoughts on Emil's playing, Lola said, "Fantastic!" Richard answered, "Fabulous!" Yes, this is true, but in our country stars only shine when someone needs them, don't they, dear compatriots?

by Sanubar Bagirova