Like the griots of Africa, the mugami-jazz of Azeri-born pianist and composer, Aziza Mustafa-Zadeh belongs right here is this wellspring and outpouring of emotion. It illuminates everything: strength, drive, courage like flamenco; essence and virtue like a child; wisdom like the ancients! Of course, I woke and wound myself up to music — hours of it — as essential to brushing my teeth, bathing and eating! Having run out of things to listen to in my portable collection, I borrowed an unlabeled audio-cassette from a friend in the crew, as passionate about music as I was.
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Like the griots of Africa, the mugami-jazz of Azeri-born pianist and composer, Aziza Mustafa-Zadeh belongs right here is this wellspring and outpouring of emotion. It illuminates everything: strength, drive, courage like flamenco; essence and virtue like a child; wisdom like the ancients! Of course, I woke and wound myself up to music — hours of it — as essential to brushing my teeth, bathing and eating!
Having run out of things to listen to in my portable collection, I borrowed an unlabeled audio-cassette from a friend in the crew, as passionate about music as I was. The music that played out of it was strange and beautiful — a piano virtuoso — but more than that — a magician who was capable, I soon found out, of calming the savage breast — literally!
The pianist had dazzling technique, a masterly sense of harmony and his soulful music made me struggle for breath. It was a song about impending death. I forget the title of the track no. I was fortunate and also knew that no new music would ever be made by this genius of mugami-jazz.
Vaghif Mustafa Zadeh had died on the 16th of December, the previous year. This was Aziza. She was 10 years old when her father died. But he left her with the best inheritance a man of musical genius could possibly bequeath his child. This is a precocious talent and discerning passion for music. And this has grown into a fiery pianistic brilliance and the most extraordinary sensitivity for the Azeri mugam inherited from her father , which she has most astutely blended in with the idiom of jazz.
To the relatively uninitiated — and I still count myself among them — mugam is an ancient, highly developed and complex form of music peculiar to Central Asia, Turkey, the Middle and the Far East. Its composition and performance demands a high degree of learning and professionalism. Much like the ancient griot traditions of African music, mugami music requires the musician to attain a higher — almost altered — state of being, because, despite the fact that mugami composition is based on the modal scale and rigidly structured, in its interpretation and performance a heightened state of emotion takes over the performer.
To back track, just a bit, mugam is based on many different modes and tonal scales where different relations between notes and scales are envisaged and developed.
The music is meta-ethnic — almost omnipresent throughout Central Asia and the Middle East. Musicologists often mutter incomprehensible things when attempting to dissertate on the mugam tradition. Their explanations are so roundabout that it is impossible to work out the exact nature of the music. An analysis of Azeri songs, dances and other folk-music forms show that they are always constructed according to one of these modes. This form combines elements of a suite and a rhapsody, is symphonic in nature, and has its own set of structural rules.
This brings the music close to jazz. At the same time — and this is antithetical to the heart and soul of jazz — it follows exact rules. Furthermore, in the case of the suite-rhapsody-mugam the concept of improvisation is not really an accurate one, since the artistic imagination of the performers is based on a strict foundation of principles determined by the respective mode. The performance of such a mugam does not present an amorphous and spontaneous, impulsive improvisation.
The songs are often based on the ancient poetry of Azerbaijan, and although love is a common topic in these poems, due to their immense complexity many of the intricacies and the spiritual and romantic allusions are lost on the untrained ear. For one, the poems do not primarily deal with worldly love but also with the mystical love for God. Nevertheless, mugam composition is designed very similarly to Sufism in that it seeks to achieve ascension from a lower level of awareness to a transcendental union with God.
It is a spiritual search for God. There are over seventy mugam and derivatives — based on known Azeri modes. The operatic scores and symphonic compositions were added on later, when musical intercourse was resumed with the west. Almost all have outlived the harsh and repressive elements — including the spread of militant Christianity and erstwhile Soviet era, whose fearful adherents tried their best to suppress the mugami opuses.
That the tradition of mugami — first heard of and developed between the 10th and 11th centuries B. Uzbayir Hajibeyov — who incorporated mugam into operatic scores in the s, Fikrat Amirov, who introduced mugam into Western symphonic form for the first time in the mids Singers such as Babayev, and Gasimov Even today, their names and music reverberates through the streets and auditoriums of Azerbaijan.
But Vaghif Mustafa Zadeh was always different. He saw through the haze of painful repression that he could fuse its concepts through performances, blended with that other great dialect of liberation — jazz — and take a centuries-old tradition into the modern era. And he was persecuted mercilessly. Vaghif — it was believed — used the emotive elements of mugam to communicate secretly with the liberated world — to subvert the closed society that he lived and died in.
Vaghif had a symbiotic relationship with his wife — and especially — with his then-young daughter Aziza, who carries on the monumental task of fusing the dialect of mugam with that of contemporary jazz. The language of love, spoken with the sonic emotion of mugam and cast in the dialect of jazz almost unified them spiritually, even as Aziza was growing up. His almost mystic musical abilities had a deep effect on the child.
Aziza, speaking to the Ms. Betty Blair reprinted from Azerbaijan International magazine — Winter, 4. As my father was playing, I started to cry.
Everyone wondered what was happening to me. Why was I crying? And then my mother realized the correlation between my feelings and the music. And sure enough, with tears still running down my cheeks, I started to make dance-like movements! Look what she is doing! And when he did, I started crying even louder than ever before. The album roared through Europe, dazzling listeners and wowing critics.
Was the album pure breathtaking jazz? Never quite so. Aziza can never be put into a singular groove. She had already lit up the sky with her otherworldly interpretation of mugam, appropriated to the landscape of jazz!
Mugam-jazz-harmolodia was born at the slender hands of the soulful Azeri pianist. Then Columbia Bless their souls! Karpeh de Carmago bass guitar , Stanley Clarke acoustic and electric bass and —an inspired choice and performance from the breathtaking Bill Evans saxophones. Now we heard a definitive, new musical voice. Dance of Fire was not simply an album — as audiences across Germany and, later, all of Europe was to discover, during April and May of The album turned a new ascendant path!
It was a tinderbox of music exploding with the dazzling display akin to the fireworks celebrating millennia in a state of beautiful flux! The twists and turns of the music bolting between earthy funk and playful coquetries proved to be a blazing hit. With DiMeola and Clarke providing a full-bodied string section, while she brought a distinctive Moorish tinge to her voice.
And sang, she did — scat melting into the mugami emotions and modes. The result was pure witchcraft in the most adorable kind of way, of course! Vocally, at any rate — not since Flora Purim, that other spectacular Brasilian vocalistics star, had an artiste Aziza been able to carry off the almost entire gamut of human emotions and feelings! With this definitive statement — running, almost breathlessly track after track — Aziza runs the gauntlet of her deepest emotions.
Aziza Mustafa Zadeh arrived, musically speaking, when, as a baby, she was moved to tears and dance by the mugam of her father, Vaghif Mustafa Zadeh. I sense it in that music that I have recorded.
Getting better. My aspiration is to be able to achieve what my parents have. With such talent and faith in her divinely inspired gifts, it feels good to listeners to wake up — both literally and figuratively as well to the music of the queen of body, soul and mugam.
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Membership has its privileges. Learn more. The mugami-jazz of Azeri-born pianist and composer, Aziza Mustapha-Zadeh belongs right here is this wellspring and outpouring of emotion. To go back to the very beginning, to go back to a Sephardic ancestry, there is the soul — voluptuous in connotation. It is, at once, the invisible shadow of the body — with a sense of self and person, reaching out to its life in the spirit-world.
It is desire, appetite, emotion and passion. For each word describes more a state of mind, a transcendent moment of perception that can occur when the flamenco musician or dancer — or, for that matter, the Moorish and the Dervish musician and dancer too — sublimates him or herself into a seductive matrix of the emotion they are seeking to express, taking you out of time with them.
It takes all of their life, all of their instincts, intuitions, emotional imagination and this complexity is poured out like a metaphorical waterfall, monumental in its impact! It cannot be manufactured. You can't see it. Still, it exists, large as life. Like the waves of duende, jaleo or vengue Sun, Jun Premium Chris DeVito piano. With Maurice Hogue. Shop for Music Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and through our retail affiliations you'll support us in the process.
Dance of Fire by Aziza Mustafa Zadeh (CD, Jan-2018, Ghost Note Records)
Be the first to write a review. Karpeh De Carmago bass ; Omar Hakim drums. The Azerbaijan pianist Aziza's Dance of Fire -- her second American record -- combines be-bop-derived jazz with elements Russian folk music. Skip to main content. Email to friends Share on Facebook - opens in a new window or tab Share on Twitter - opens in a new window or tab Share on Pinterest - opens in a new window or tab.