17 year old pianist "Eldar" to save jazz?
Sony Classical has found the new jazz savior, or so they'd like you to believe. His name is Eldar. He's 17 (or was when his eponymous cd was recorded). And he's from the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. (which has been in the news lately, as the site of another one of those democratic revolutions sweeping that part of the world) His family moved him to the US in 1998, to Kansas City in fact. The record labels are comparing him to everyone from Art Tatum to Bill Evans, and he certainly has influences from both, as well as McCoy Tyner, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, etc. His cd opens with the fastest version of Sweet Georgia Brown I've ever heard, simply insane. But if you're one of those people who shys away from Oscar Peterson for some of his more "extravagant" virtuoso moments, Eldar may not be your cup of tea.
I'll leave it up to you to decide if Eldar swings. If he doesn't, it sure isn't due to his band, which includes typical B-list talent like Michael Brecker and John Patitucci (I'm kidding about the B-list part). The thing though that strikes me about this cd though is how much it reminds me of the cds of other "young jazz virtuosos"! Anyone remember Christopher Hollyday? He was a Jackie McLean clone who came out in the early 90's, talented kid, but burned out, and is totally off the jazz scene these days, despite a couple of albums via RCA Novus with A-list talent. Or how about Sergio Salvatore? Or last year's young Blue Note piano virtuoso Takashi? At least young virtuoso Hiromi has made it to her second album, though I can't say I care much for her brand of "math jazz." I suppose these records might sell better off the bat, and are more likely to get an NPR feature than, say, a new album by someone like a Barry Harris, but that's how the industry is.
But what about the musician? All of the people I've mentioned are talented, but most, if not all, didn't have the experience of being a sideman, or at least for very long. There's been a long tradition of paying dues in the jazz world, and it's not just about paying dues, it's about learning the music on the bandstand, from the elders, so to speak. That's why almost all of the musicians who came through Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers over the years went on to successful careers. They learned from the best, and waited (well, except Wynton) to make their debut albums. I don't know what will come of Eldar. I wish him the best, but the road ahead is a rocky one, after all, it is jazz.