Tashkent jazz fest makes a splash and energizes Tashkent and Samarkand enthusiasts
The Second International Jazz Festival in Uzbekistan has wrapped up. The action-packed affair was rich in genres, barnstorming gigs, and lyrical performances. But most importantly, it was unforgettable.
The festival came on the heels of an event that saw the American a capella group The Exchange rock the Tashkent audience. The baton was then passed on to musicians fr om the Czech Republic, France, Indonesia, Latvia, Switzerland and Turkey. The festival also treated local jazz enthusiasts to the performances of the Bоtir Zokirov Jazz Orchestra while the improvisations of student teams of the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan came as a discovery. Their energetic and unexpected mix of classical jazz instruments and Uzbek instrument doira concluded a concert dedicated to World Jazz Day.
“This year’s festival was held at a high level. And it was jazzed up with amazing performances by musicians from various countries. I noticed that our musicians are growing professionally thanks to this celebration of jazz,” says the Art Director of Bоtir Zokirov Jazz Orchestra, Mansur Toshmatov. “The festival is drawing an increasing number of people with each passing year. People now have a better understanding of this style of music.”
Czech saxophonist Michal Wroblewski teamed up with the national jazz orchestra to perform classical pieces of the past century. The concert concluded with a jamsation, wh ere musicians improvised pieces.
“Today it is hard to define jazz because it has many faces and is universal,” Wroblewski said. “For me, jazz means improvisation. It’s the freedom of self-expression that I love about this style. As in any performance, it was important for me to create energy that could be given to the audience. And it doesn’t matter what type of audience you’re playing for, be they prepared or not. The most important thing is to establish this connection that energizes not only the audience but also the musicians.”
Classical and ethnic jazz was presented by Latvian Radio Big Band, which is celebrating its 50th milestone this year. The Art Director of the group, Maris Briezkalns, holds a major festival and competition in his home country. A young Uzbek singer, Sabina Mustayeva, joined the Big Band to perform a song that had won her second place at the Latvian festival. Tashkent also welcomed other winners of this Latvian jazz competition, Kristine Praulina and Intars Busulis. Latvian Radio Big Band played folk compositions with jazz twists as well as music custom-composed for the band.
“The beauty of jazz is in improvisation. It makes for living music,” Briezkalns said. Therefore, every concert gives you something new, something remarkable. Part of the compositions we performed at the concert was created by young Latvian composers, and the Tashkent jazz aficionados were among the first to evaluate their creativity.”
The Turkish quintet of Ahmet Berker and Gokhan Somela presented an amazing performance of traditional jazz pieces. Indonesia’s Dwiki Dharmawan and his band won over Uzbek hearts with a spectacular gig in the style of Ethno Jazz. Swiss trip Noisy Minority offered new, avant-garde music that not many can understand. The trip was created over 25 years ago, and its saxophonist and percussionist even attended the same school. French pianist Herve Sellin presented his own renditions of classical works. He also played a rendition of the Uzbek film score “Mahallada duv-duv gap” (It’s the talk of town) jointly with the Jazzirama group.
The festival was not limited to concerts only. The invited musicians shared their experience and skills with lyceum and college students while improvising with colleagues from Uzbekistan, and learned a lot about Uzbek jazz through jamming with the group Jazzirama. Most importantly, the second International Jazz Festival gave all its participants and audience boundless positive energy, leaving them looking forward to the next edition next year.