Pianist Eldar Djangirov was born in the Soviet Union in 1987; moved to the United States at 10; and recorded and released his 2001 independent debut CD, Eldar, in his early teens. At first, his prodigious jazz and classical technique was a novelty because of his age, creating a slippery slope that many such ahead-of-their-years musicians eventually slide back down without cresting. With his new trio effort, Rhapsodize, the now-seasoned 33-year-old pianist proves he has advanced well beyond those early child-star trappings.
A creative interpreter during his entire 20-year recording career, Djangirov opens the new disc with a frenetic take on the Dizzy Gillespie standard “A Night in Tunisia” that’s unrecognizable until he states the familiar melody. Before that, the pianist creates a metric shell game with two-handed flurries that sound like two pianists amid drummer Jimmy Macbride’s offbeat cadence. Acoustic bassist Raviv Markovitz glues his trio mates together and takes a memorable middle solo.
Further in, the variety includes another stately jazz standard (Ann Ronell’s ballad “Willow Weep for Me”), manic “Variations on a Bach Prelude,” and the late rock vocalist Chris Cornell’s hit with Soundgarden, “Black Hole Sun,” a swinging indicator that the young Djangirov’s influences are often anything but standard jazz or classical fare.
Yet Rhapsodize primarily features Djangirov-penned compositions, like its buoyant, multi-themed title track. “Airport” highlights a meditative melody within a 7/8-time groove; “Anthemic” and “Burn” showcase the entire trio’s melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic talents within a hard-bop context; and the moody ballad “In July” even displays blues underpinnings. The album’s dizzying closer, “Blackjack,” was featured on a previous Djangirov trio opus, the 2009 release Virtue—and the final statement proves well worth a revisit.