Hard bop/post-bop pianist Eldar Djangirov has accomplished something that the vast majority of jazz artists -- pianists or otherwise -- will never accomplish: he landed a contract with a major label (Sony Classical) when he still wasn't old enough to vote. It is not uncommon for people to learn to play jazz during their adolescent years (especially in Western Europe), but most of them won't record an album as a leader until they are in their twenties; many won't even be recorded as sidemen until after they reach their twenties. Djangirov, however, started recording as a leader when he was in his mid-teens, and had recorded three albums before his 18th birthday. Djangirov, an immigrant from what used to be the Soviet Union, brings an intriguing variety of bebop, hard bop, post-bop and swing influences to his work. The acoustic pianist (who also plays electric keyboards but is essentially straight-ahead in his approach) has been greatly affected by the clear, crystalline playing of Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, Keith Jarrett, and Ahmad Jamal; like those musicians, he can be quite lyrical (sometimes in an impressionistic way). But he has also shown his appreciation of Oscar Peterson and Red Garland's funkiness at times, and his other influences range from McCoy Tyner to Bud Powell to pre-bop master Art Tatum. A Djangirov solo might acknowledge anything from Thelonious Monk's angularity to Garland's use of what musicians refer to as "block chords" (a technique that is easy for jazz listeners to recognize even if they don't understand the exact technical meaning of the term). Despite having recorded for Sony Classical, Djangirov is not a classical-oriented musician -- straight-ahead jazz is definitely his main focus. But like many jazz musicians, he has been influenced by the European classical tradition and can bring some of the Euro-classical vocabulary to his improvisations.
Djangirov was born on January 28, 1987 in Kyrgyzstan in the former Soviet Union, which did away with communism when he was only a child. At the age of five, he began studying the piano with his mother Tatiana Djangirov (who was a music teacher in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan). In 1996, a nine-year-old Eldar Djangirov performed at a jazz festival in Novosibirsk, Russia, where a visiting American jazz supporter named Charles McWhorter heard him for the first time. Feeling that the young pianist had a great deal of potential, McWhorter arranged for him to attend a summer camp at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. Djangirov ended up staying in the United States; after leaving Michigan, he lived in Kansas City before making San Diego, CA his home. The improviser's first album, Eldar [D&D], was released in 2001, when he was 14; that disc was followed by the release of his sophomore disc, Handprints, in 2003. In 2004, Djangirov signed with Sony Classical and recorded his third album, which is also titled Eldar [Sony]; the album boasts John Patitucci on bass and Michael Brecker on tenor sax and was given a March 2005 release date. Two years later Eldar released Re-Imagination, which saw the pianist stretching out into solo acoustic piano and even electronica territory. Virtue appeared in 2009. ~ Alex Henderson