NURI AKHMEDOV:

"Jazz is the music of my youth, I have so many good memories of that time, evry time I hear the music it takes me back to the sixties. Baku was a real jazz city at that time, the best concerts happened here."

It was concert night at the Jazz Centre; by now a habitual gathering place for those who appreciate intellectual music.
I am watching a man sitting in his usual place and peering at the stage in close attention to the music. As head of one of the largest companies he seeks to unwind after another hard working day. The staff of the Jazz Centre know Nuri Ahmedov very well; they also know that this man, who is behind the rise of jazz to the highest cultural levels, lives in Azerbaijan and does so much to support new talent. He has put a lot of time and energy into the development of jazz; his name is behind all the latest ventures in the jazz in this city. It is only through him that our musicians go to festivals, participate in international conferences and record and release CDs, but his main contribution has been the opening of the new Jazz Centre. It had been a long-held ambition of Nuri Ahmedov and his like-minded collaborator Farhad Badalbeyli to establish this kind of centre, but not an easy one to fulfil. Being strong-willed by nature, he was determined to succeed and establish the kind of resource that jazz musicians and audiences could only dream of. Now Baku's Jazz Centre has become a favourite haunt of music lovers. Musicians can rehearse, play concerts, record and simply meet up to collaborate and share ideas.
Apart from all his work, Nuri Ahmedov is a strong family man; devoted to his wife, a highly educated woman who is at the centre of his life, he is also rightly proud of his children.
He is an uncommonly interesting partner in discussion; talking to him you are lost in admiration of his intellect and level of education. He has a specific modesty; he is reluctant to discuss his involvement in the events and projects of the jazz world. His good breeding makes him attribute successes to the talent and hard work of the musicians rather than to his invaluable support.

Nuri Akhmedov

Nuri Muellim, where does this love for jazz come from?
Jazz is the music of my youth, I have so many good memories of that time, evry time I hear the music it takes me back to the sixties. Baku was a real jazz city at that time, the best concerts happened here. It was a very strange period; on the one hand it was forbidden to play 'capitalist music', on the other hand many famous bands were invited here; I remember well jazz leader Max Gregor's visit here, it was very important for us. Many musicians came here and made jazz popular among the younger generations. They were very good years and I till remember the feelings we had then. There were many talented local musicians and they were often invited to play with internationally recognised bands. There were musicians from Baku in Eddie Rosner's orchestra. Actually, banning jazz made it more attractive to people; generally, forbidden fruit is always more attractive. Our musicians have always aroused great interest among audiences at international festivals. In the festivals of Tallinn, Riga and Minsk the introduction of a band from Baku always stirred the audience; they always had something new and different to offer.
It's a pity that events at the end of the eighties interrupted the development of jazz. The death of Vagif Mustafazadeh, who played such a great role in the formation of Azerbaijani jazz, Rafiq Babayev's tragic death and the loss to Baku of Aziza Mustafazadeh, Rauf Sultanov and others left a great gap here. On the other hand, musicians could not earn money and keep their families by playing jazz; most of them depended on weddings for income. Only Javan Zeynalli resisted this and barely kept the flame alight, audiences had to go to the White Club and other restaurants to hear him. Only at the end of the nineties did something begin to move again; Salman Gambarov's 'Bakustik Jazz' and Rain Sultanov's 'Syndicate' were established. Now we have five or six strong groups and each of them is capable of representing our republic on the world stage.

Agree with me that you have played a role, too….
It was coincidence, because young, talented musicians were appearing who had nowhere to show what they could do. There was only the Jazz Club which didn't provide for younger musicians who, they felt, were not yet ready for performance. Of course the opening of the Jazz Centre helped young musicians to come
Nuri Akhmedov

together, helped them to rehearse, to get on stage and learn from professional musicians. Everything was achieved with the support of Farhad Badalbeyli, without him it would have been impossible to establish this kind of centre. Some companies and jazz lovers also helped us a lot. There is a Jazz Faculty now in the Baku Music Academy, there is a recording studio in the Centre, a daily music programme continues, bands are invited from abroad and concerts are organised. The first jazz magazine in Azerbaijan is published from the Centre and this is a great gift to jazz lovers. We also have to acknowledge the importance of the production of the Jazz in Azerbaijan Anthology with its CDs; according to my information this book has been very well received in Holland. Even in Germany, where jazz has developed very quickly, they don't have such a book. We have opened a separate site on the internet to include all the news and events in the Azerbaijan jazz world; you can get information about the Anthology, about 'Jazz Dunyasi', jazz musicians and the Jazz Centre's activities. We are also going to open a site for each musician in the city and another site devoted to 'Jazz Dunyasi'.
Some of our dreams have still to be achieved: there should be master classes in the Centre. They don't have to be run by only foreign musicians; we would like our own professional musicians to take an interest and pass on their skills to less experienced players.

What do you think about a Jazz Festival? Will there be one soon?
Yes, the next Jazz Festival will be in April 2005 and will be organised from the Jazz Centre. This is a very serious undertaking, all the previous festivals held in Baku have been organised by foreign organisations. As a spectator the Festivals have been more like jazz concerts and have had a low level of organisation. There's no sense in repeating this in the future, there are a number of jazz lovers among the businessmen and companies this is why I believe we can organise festivals at an appropriate level. Of course it won't be easy, but I think we can do it without too many problems.

In previous festivals our musicians weren't given a proper chance and it's no secret that, if not for you, audiences would not have heard them…
Yes, I read in the newspapers that organisers of the Caspian Jazz and Blues Festival were going to allow only one or two local musicians on the stage. To tell the truth, on reading that I felt as though someone had sworn at me. It was strange that people from American Voices were deciding who should and should not be allowed on the Baku stage, it made me angry. I knew what our musicians could do and, as one of the main sponsors of the Festival, I brought up the question of allowing our young musicians onto the stage. As a result, one day was set aside for local musicians but, in reality, that was not enough; each local group had only fifteen minutes instead of the usual forty minutes. I think our musicians deserve appreciation; they work hard to develop their talent. I'd like to mention Rauf Babayev's work. How long this musician has been working with these youngsters to groom them as professional singers! He has a very good vocal school. People like him should be given a chance to show the results of their years of hard work.

Nuri Akhmedov

You are one of the few people in Baku who maintain contact with Aziza Mustafazadeh. Is it possible that for you Aziza will come to play a concert in Baku?
She will definitely come, because she loves her native land. The reason for Aziza's long absence from Baku is her workload and her contractual commitments. She is a very talented person, she is famous throughout the world and plays fine concerts in Germany, America and other countries. Perhaps she hasn't been invited here on the right terms, but I have no reason to think that she refuses to come. I keep in touch with her by phone and mail. I hope that Baku audiences will soon have the chance to see her in concert here.