Piano phenom Eldar Djangirov has most certainly heard it all before: his similarities to Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, his astounding speed, the way he's able to move his way through some of jazz's most intricate numbers, that he's played with some of the genre's biggest names, at some of the most important venues; that all of this has been accomplished before his 20th birthday. And the amazing thing about this is that all of these statements are completely true. Eldar is an exceptionally gifted pianist, regardless of age, very skilled at improvising upon a theme without completely obliterating it, alluding to it constantly while still adding his own distinct voice. All of this is portrayed very well on Eldar Live at the Blue Note. The legendary jazz club provides a good setting for the pianist and his band, bassist Marco Panascia and drummer Todd Strait, as well as special guests Chris Botti and Roy Hargrove, who add their trumpets to a track each. Eldar is quite talented at using dynamics, among other things, to his advantage, and he climbs and swings his way through the ten songs on the album. Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love" takes on new meaning as Eldar's right and left hands chop out fast alternating rhythms, and Thelonious Monk's classic "Straight, No Chaser" is ripe with interplay between the pianist and Hargrove and moves along mightily. The best piece on the album, however, is probably the one that's the relative slowest, the cover of "Besame Mucho." Here, Eldar decelerates some and lets the subtle emotion of the song really come through, his improvisations alluding to the vocals of both Nat King Cole and Carmen McRae. Perhaps the only place where Eldar's youth shows is in his original compositions, not because of their lack of complexity, but because of their seeming preoccupation with poignancy and affectation, moving away from the jazz that he clearly knows and loves and towards something closer to Windham Hill-esque music. Here, his fondness of arpeggiating is more of a weakness than a strength, as it makes the songs overtly sentimental. Eldar Live at the Blue Note more than proves the pianist's skill as musician, performer, and arranger, but his compositional ability still needs some time to develop. Considering that Eldar was just 18 when he recorded this album, there's nothing really wrong with that at all.
All Music Guide