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Eldar Djangirov: Three Stories

Matt Marshall By

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Since emerging on the worldwide jazz scene in 2004, pianist Eldar Djangirov has been touted for the classical skill he brings to standard jazz and original material alike. With Three Stories, Eldar attacks the classical repertoire itself, mixing a pair of Bach pieces, and one from Alexander Scriabin, with standards by the likes of Sammy Cahn, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and George Gershwin, plus a few originals. The three stories—classical, standards (or popular music—he also covers a Dave Matthews tune) and originals—are told with a consistent voice that serves to twine and intermix the narratives not unlike Claude Simon's fiction. By the time the penultimate "Rhapsody in Blue" rolls around, the inventive mix in Gershwin's jazz concerto can be heard anew.

The album is Eldar's first solo piano recording—and first, incidentally, to feature his full name on the cover (whether this signals an attempt to move away from the one-name moniker he has favored heretofore is unclear). He opens, appropriately enough, with a full minute's worth of classical flourishes, before advancing the melody of "I Should Care" in any sustained manner. But even then, the linear course is brief. The tune having been established, Eldar is off to the races, but it's a neck-and-neck gallop between classical and ragtime motifs. And a brief pause is all that separates this standard of popular music and Bach's "Prelude in C# Major"—the exuberant runs that course Bach's piece stemming, seemingly, from Cahn's to bore into the German heart and emerge not much later as the dust from Tchaikovsky's "Sugar Plum Fairy" sprinkling over Van Heusen's "Darn That Dream." The high-end, raspy plunkings that form the sleepy melody of "Dream" constitute, perhaps, the album's most inspired crossing of musical tracks.

Other highlights include a take on Monk's classic celebratory piece, "In Walked Bud," here rendered with a deep undercurrent of pain, an abiding melancholy (if yet shy of all-out misery), stabbing dully but consistently at the daily effort of coming and going—of sitting, of waiting, of walking in—even as the motion surges inevitably ahead. Gershwin's "Embraceable You" is achingly beautiful, romantic and maybe too sweetly sentimental for some—the crush of heavily scented roses—but the piece never lacks for intelligence. And when Eldar reaches the "Rhapsody" apex, the entire weave of musical stories comes to seem an undressing of Gershwin's mind, his brain rattling the "musical kaleidoscope of America" on a train ride to Boston. Tchaikovsky and Scriabin are dead. Stravinsky's in flower. And the tracks race into America for all the wild vagabonds to jump onboard. Eldar stitches his one-man concerto with improvised "orchestral" fills, allowing the glimpse of a time, not far off, when the soloist will rage over the stateliness of symphonies— ragtime-infused or not. It hardly seems an accident that the pianist closes his album with a Charlie Parker tune.

Track Listing: I Should Care; Prelude in C# Major; Darn That Dream; Windows; Etude Op. 2 No. 1; In Walked Bud; Three Stories; So Damn Lucky; Embraceable You; Russian Lullaby; Air on a G String; Impromptu; Rhapsody in Blue; Donna Lee.

Personnel: Eldar Djangirov, piano.

Title: Three Stories | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Sony Masterworks

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