From experience I can confirm that it’s hard work to become decent on a musical instrument. No matter the musical genre or instrument, it takes consistent practice to become listenable. I’m not saying I’ve gotten listenable yet with my bass and guitar playing.
I marvel at those players who hit the stage with the chops and confidence to offer up rock, jazz or classical standards for their audience. Pianist Eldar Djangirov is one such musician who has attained an uncommon level of virtuosity in two genres: jazz and classical.
Performing this Sunday as part of Columbia’s We Always Swing Jazz Series, the 26 year old pianist emigrated at age ten with his family from Russia to America. His family was drawn to Kansas City’s jazz heritage and settled in Missouri with their son in the late 1990s. Djangirov (pronounced john-'gear-ov) started playing piano at age three. Once in America, the prodigy reached his largest audience thanks to an appearance on Marian McPartland's NPR show, Piano Jazz, at age 12. Eldar later attended Michigran’s Interlochen Center for the Arts as a teenager.
During his young performing career, Djangirov has won accolades from the likes of piano masters like Dr. Billy Taylor and Dave Brubeck with the latter praising Djangirov as “a genius beyond most young people I've heard.” At age 17, the pianist signed a record deal with Sony Masterworks. His early performances near his Kansas City home led to future live sets with jazz band leaders including Taylor, McPartland and Brubeck as well as jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and bassist Ron Carter.
While building his skills in performing the standard jazz repertoire, Djangirov also developed his abilities in playing classical compositions. Earlier this year, Djangirov pulled off a feat few artists can claim: he released recordings in two genres.
With the May issue of Djangirov’s Bach/Brahms/Prokofiev recording, the New Yorker enters rarified territory reserved for artists like Keith Jarrett, Wynton Marsalis and Chick Corea who have released a significant classical recording while continuing to record and perform jazz. Djangirov’s debut classical solo piano album highlights the pianist’s skills on J.S. Bach's Partita in C minor, Brahms' Eight Piano Pieces, Op. 76, and Prokofiev's Sonata #7, Op. 83. The May 2013 release came on the heels of his April release, Breakthrough with a jazz trio featuring longtime bandmates bassist Armando Gola and drummer Ludwig Afonso.
Here’s a 2011 performance of pianist and former Kansas Citian Eldar Djangirov performing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the Russian National Orchestra:
Jazz fans will appreciate the pianist with his trio on this 2013 studio recording of his original composition, Point of View Redux:
Tickets for this Sunday’s Eldar Djangirov Trio 3:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. performances are available from the We Always Swing Jazz Series.