Sometimes even a world-class piano prodigy has to kick back and just live the life of a boy and his record collection. The light-speed piano work of twenty-year-old Eldar Djangirov is the sound of someone willing his fingers to tell 50 musical stories at once, some inspired by authors the average jazz fan wouldn't expect. Eldar's spiritual kinship with jazz greats Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum (the pair to whom he is most often compared) occasionally takes a back seat to simpler pleasures, revealed by phrases that are pure Radiohead or Björk.
Eldar was discovered at the age of nine by jazz patron Charles McWhorter, who saw him perform at the Novosibirsk jazz festival in Siberia. With the support of his many contacts in the jazz world, McWhorter helped Eldar obtain a scholarship to attend summer camp at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. In 1998 he and his parents left their native Kyrgyzstan and moved to Kansas City. Once there, Eldar continued to impress nearly everyone who heard him.
Eldar's third album for Sony BMG, Re-imagination, is studded with nine originals, marking his first steps away from the coddling spotlight of prodigy and toward the challenges of artisthood. "It's unlike anything I've done in the past," he says. "It's a very personal statement, not focusing on a certain tradition or vibe, or on genres or labels. I wanted to do very organic tunes, things with a more produced sound, and some solo piano songs. It's meant to be part of the journey, not a departure."
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