Teen Jazz Piano Prodigy Eldar Makes His Sony Classical Recording Debut

A boyish 17-year-old émigré from Kyrgyzstan in the former Soviet Union might seem an unlikely candidate for greatness as a jazz pianist, but Eldar is all of those things, and they have brought him to his self-titled debut recording for Sony Classical. The new recording features original tunes, and his own arrangements of such jazz classics as “‘Round Midnight,” “Nature Boy,” “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Fly Me To the Moon.” Eldar will be released on Tuesday, March 8, 2005.

Eldar, who turns 18 shortly before the release of his new recording, has already been featured on the 42nd annual Grammy Awards broadcast, and he took the top prizes in the 2001 Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and the 2002 Peter Nero Piano Competition. The legendary Marian McPartland has had him as her guest (the youngest ever) on her acclaimed radio series Piano Jazz, then invited him to perform on her jazz concert series as the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.

After hearing Eldar play, jazz legend Benny Carter said, “He’s one of the most astounding artists I’ve heard in a long, long time.” An impressed Billy Taylor noted that “he’s serious about his music, he’s thoughtful about what he does, and he’s a regular kid.” Hailing Eldar as “a remarkably advanced jazz artist,” Jazziz Magazine wrote, “The pianist’s incredible hands already have him sounding like a young Art Tatum.”

Today, Eldar lives in San Diego, after settling in Kansas City with his parents Emil and Tatiana Djangirov in 1998 when they left Kyrgyzstan with the help of the late jazz aficionado Charles McWhorter. McWhorter first heard Eldar with the boy was only nine years of age, playing a jazz festival in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.
“Jazz was like part of the air,” Eldar has said of his early childhood. Though he began taking lessons in classical piano from his mother when he was five years old “very helpful,” he recalled his father was a great jazz fan, constantly listening to BBC and Voice of America broadcasts. When he was nine, Eldar began to explore jazz seriously. His influences are classic, from the elegant drive of Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson to the exuberance of Dave Brubeck and Bill Evans’ piercing intensity and introspection.

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