Igor Butman: "Vagif Mustafazade - original, brilliant, outstanding"

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Igor Butman: "Vagif Mustafazade - original, brilliant, outstanding"

On March 16, Azerbaijani jazz legend, Vagif Mustafazade would have turned 79 years old. On the eve of this date, Vagif's friends and colleagues, fans of his music and jazz in general gathered at Igor Butman Club. The special guest of the evening was Maestro Igor Butman, who told Vestnik Kavkaza about Vagif Mustafazade and music in general.

- Were you acquainted with Vagif Mustafazade?

- We met many years ago, at the beginning of my career, at the Autumn rhythms festival in Leningrad. His performances and hanging around with this outstanding musician always excited me. Vagif had a wonderful sense of humor, a great knowledge of jazz and traditions. He was original in his Azerbaijani mugham performances. He intertwined everything so naturally, so when listening to him, I just flew away with my imagination.

We performed together on the fifth floor in the Kirov Palace of Culture, a Kvadrat jazz club located there. This is also an unforgettable experience. He passed away early, but left a great legacy. Many live long, but leave nothing behind them. Vagif's records held top spots in charts, received good reviews, but the most important thing is that people still like them, they are still relevant.

We will always remember Vagif, think about what a great musician he was, what jazz talents lived in the Soviet Union, and he is one of them - original, brilliant, outstanding.

- Did he influenced your creativity?

- Of course. We are all have ties with the east, and as its manifestation, mugham occupies a special place. We studied, analyzed Vagif's music influenced by mugham, and therefore we also have music similar to Vagif's music, to oriental music.

- Today Baku positions itself as a capital of jazz. Do you agree with this definition?

- Baku has always been a musical, interesting, international city of great musicians. There is a lot of talented young people now. With [Azerbaijani pianist and composer] Isfar Sarabski, we performed the first gala concert of World Jazz Day. We played in London with [Azerbaijani jazz singer and composer] Aziza Mustafazade. So each city has the right to be called a capital a something because of its talents. No city should be favoured. On the other hand, each city has its own tradition, its own intonation, its own talents. Therefore, I really like all cities, especially Baku, which has always always thrilled me. I hope we will still come there, perform and make music together with musicians from Azerbaijan, from Baku.

- How international is Vagif Mustafazade’s art?

- Jazz was born in America at the crossroads of African and European cultures. Great musicians always study traditions and intonations of other nations. If there are American, Russian, Hindu, Azerbaijani in one ensemble, their creative potential is great. Music is international art, even if it is national. It brings people together, gives joy, emotions, experiences, a moment of distraction from pressing problems that are nothing compared with great works of art. But people, unfortunately, cannot listen to music or look at pictures all the time. But there would be chaos if it were not for music, not art.

We are all international, but each has its own identity, nationality, own culture, own traditions. Every nation wants to share its joys, and art is one of the joys. If our people like some intonation, some tune, we grant it to others. Eastern countries, India, China, gave us a pentatonic scale. Azerbaijan granted Eastern Phrygian modes. Hungarians - what they have, as well as Russians. Africans added their rhythm. Jews, Moldovans, Bulgarians added their complex  time signatures. It’s hard for them to use common time, and for us - to play in 7/8 time or 13/8 time signatures. But we overcome ourselves by getting pleasure from it. Adopting to some kind of culture is a challenge for musicians. No wonder the style is called "fusion". Vagif Mustafazade was a fusion performer. But the main thing is not what to play, but how to play. Talent is international, it does not belong to one people. Everyone loves to read Pushkin, everyone listens to Vagif Mustafazade, everyone listens to Tchaikovsky and read Omar Khayyam, and everyone is happy.