On 16 December, the French office of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) organised a concert at the world-famous Duc des Lombards Club in the first arrondissement of Paris in the Les Halles district by the 24-year-old Azerbaijani pianist Isfar Sarabski – winner of the solo piano prize at the Montreux International Jazz Festival 2009. During the past three decades, the club has paid host to an array of visiting stars who perform alongside the best of French talent. The invited audience of around 70 guests included Jean-François Mancel, French Assembly Member for Oise and Gocha Javakhishvili, Council Minister, Georgian Embassy.
In her introduction, Eliza Pieter, Head, TEAS France said: “This is an exceptional concert by one of the most talented young Azerbaijani pianists, Isfar Sarabski, who specialises in Azerbaijani jazz. This is his second concert at the Duc des Lombards club. Isfar has won numerous awards, including that at the Montreux International Jazz Festival. He performs in a classic jazz style, mixed with mugham, the traditional music of his homeland.”
The programme by Isfar and the other members of his trio included his own funky variations on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Ballet and the passionate Oblivion by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla. However, Isfar’s own compositions dominated the programme, including the
thoughtful Transit to New York, inspired by his extensive touring schedule; Novruz, which incorporated eastern harmonies; the rhapsodic Dèja-Vu, where bassist Makar Novikov played in a mugham style on a bowed bass; and G-Man, his own composition, which provided opportunity for an exciting call-and-response sequence between Isfar and drummer Alexander Mashin. A standing ovation prompted Isfar and his musicians to play an encore of Agent, another exciting piece based around repeated riffs that enabled all three musicians to demonstrate their abilities.
Jazz has retained a longstanding popularity in Azerbaijan, not least due to the fact that its improvised nature has some similarities to Azerbaijani mugham. Isfar regularly performs in the Baku Jazz Centre, which hosts concerts every evening, and at the Baku International Jazz Festival, which has hosted a range of international and Azerbaijani performers, including Billy Cobham, Joe Zawinul and Herbie Hancock.