JAZZ Aziza Mustafa Zadeh
Edinburgh: Queen's Hall, Fri 21 Feb. Glasgow: Henry Wood Hall, Sat 22 Feb.
This time last year, Aziza Mustafa Zadeh was all set to make her Scottish debut, until an awards ceremony in Germany intervened. The pianist and singer will now make good the cancellation, and will bring with her a distinctive musical flavour of her homeland. Aziza comes from Baku, which is pretty much off the beaten track in jazz terms.
No jokes, please. That's Baku, Azerbaijan, where her father, Vagif Mustafa Zadeh, established himself as the leading jazz thinker in the country, and made a series of international contacts which included that most indefatigable of cross-territory explorers, Dizzy GilleSpie. Aziza recalls her first meeting with the great man, who. on being introduced, immediately responded ‘ah, Vagif’.
Such recognition was pleasing for the pianist (her father died when she was only nine), but she is already better known, and has emerged as one of the most strikingly original stylists on the current world jazz scene. Now in her mid-twenties, she has already tucked four albums under her belt, and has been building a substantial word of mouth reputation for sizzling live performances which are not entirely reflected on disc.
Like Jan Garbarek or John Surman, she has a foot in both the jazz and folk camps and, to stretch the metaphor beyond physical feasibility, yet another in the classical world. As a former
winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk Competition, her jazz credentials are impeccable, with tangible influences ranging from Monk and Bud Powell to Bill
Evans and McCoy Tyner.
Those are subsumed within a distinctive approach which is flexible enough to work in fiery, passionate solo recitals or the smoother jazz-fusion of her Dance Of Fire album. She has continued to develop her father’s experiments in amalgamating western jazz with traditional Azeri folk music, notably mugam, which incorporates complex, closely defined harmonies and difficult time signatures, as well as what she describes as
Aziza Mustafa Zadeh: unique fusion
an equally complex 'very big mystery — a reflection of a whole philosophy'. The Azeri influence is expressed most clearly in her
brittle singing style, with its characteristic extremes of
range, pitch and timbre worked into the fabric of a more conventional jazz (and. on recent evidence, pop) approach. As well as overt jazz and folk elements, she draws also on Western classical music, and Bach in particular, although critics have also thrown in the names of Beethoven, Liszt and Rachmaninov in a (rather vain) attempt to pin down her keyboard pyrotechnics. (Kenny Mathieson)
R'N'B The Braxtons Glasgow: SECC, Wed 5 Mar.
I bet Mr and Mrs Braxton are pleased with themselves. Not only is their daughter Toni an internationally respected R ’n' 8 artist, now her three sisters, Towanda, Tamar and Trina — aka The Braxtons — are set to follow in her footsteps. A fifth sister, Tracey, also sings, but is currently taking time out to pursue other interests. There's a brother as well who . . . well, nobody really knows what he does. Maybe he’s the drummer.
Apart from having first names that all begin with 'T', the similarities, musically at least, end there. The Braxtons debut album 50 Many Ways (Atlantic) is an uptempo mixture of R 'n' B, rap, pop, soul and gospel that is markedly different to sister Toni’s ballad-led material. Where the latter prefers the slow love songs, her sisters dig an altogether sexier groove. At the moment the threesome are on support
“ITIEIJS'I’ 21 Feb-6 Mar 1997
The Braxtons dig a sexy furrow
slots, with Luther Vandross this time around, but if there is any justice in this oh-so-cruel world then it shouldn’t be long before they are trailblazing their own way across the globe.
Unfortunately, our interview is less than sexy. Sample quotes from the sickly sweet sibling Trina include: 'The church has always been important to us. It keeps us grounded. It's something that's always been a part of us and something that we'll never let go of.’ Like that? How about: ’Touring is fabulous. When we were younger my parents had a Winnebago. We used to travel everywhere in it and sing. It still feels like a family vacation when we go on tour.’ Excited? Try this one for size, adrenaline junkies. ’Being on stage is the most wonderful feeling in the entire world. That's where we get our strength from.’
'We're just normal everyday girls that go through the same problems and the same experiences as everyone else,’ Trina says.
But enough cheap shots. While overdosing on wholesome attitude and family happiness may not be everybody’s cup of treacle, the music speaks for itself. Just listen to the album. It’s very good. (Jim Byers)
Edinburgh: Playhouse Theatre, until Sat 17 May
At the centre of the showbiz and cultural phenomenon of Riverdance is the innovative music of Bill Whelan. Taken from his early 905 symphonic work 'The Spirit Of Mayo', a seven- minute section was choreographed to produce the now-famous interlude for a Eurowsion Song Contest final, and the rest is history — and loadsamoney.
His full score, though based on Irish traditional musrc, is given many subtle transformations. As well as eastern European rhythmic terms, it also features excursions into flamenco and jazz tap idioms, all played with a remarkable degree of fluent accuracy by a superb bunch of musicians including mouth organ maestro Brendan Power.
The New Zealander is looking forward to three months in the Scottish capital 'hoping to connect with the music scene in my time off [not that he has much of that— the show plays eight times a week] and learn some new music, especially those 2/4 pipe marches.’
At the Playhouse, Power often takes centre stage for the instrumental ’big solo’ spot of the night. I asked him about the well-known safety net of miming to pre-recording, a technique that the Ri‘verdance producers have sanctioned in the past. ’There's hardly any of that now. We’re on stage playing live. That's what gives it all the edge — and it makes it so much more interesting to do. If I’m going to be doing the solo that night it makes all the difference.’
He's also playing with classy performers. ’lt's a really good band. We’ve got drums, and percussion, also Irish percussion — bodhran, bones and spoons — and fiddle, sax, electric guitar and keyboards. Declan Masterton’s on uillean pipes. And Georgi Petrov on Gadulka (three-stringed upright fiddle) - he’s from Bulgaria — and he’s a virtuoso musician, a genius.’
Coming from someone who's played with everyone from Sting to Arty McGlynn, who crosses styles from his 40,000 selling, easy listening Harmon/"ca Nights, to post-modern atonal abstract composition, and to the groundbreaking New Irish Harmonica album - that’s a recommendation. (Norman Chalmers)
Brendan Power: mean with the moothie