News and concert information about Azerbaijani jazz singer Ulviyya Rahimova-Jones.

Azerbaijan wins Eurovision!

While we don’t usually cover pop music, we do report on major musical events in Azerbaijan. And this year Azerbaijan became the center of (Euro) pop media when it won this year’s Eurovision contest. Eldar Kasimov and Nigar Djamal, also known by their pop pseudonyms Ell & Nikki, won the 56th contest with their song “Running Scared”. This was the fourth time Azerbaijan has participated in Eurovision.

Eurovision watchers usually comment on the very political voting, the rivalry between certain countries, or the intensity some countries place on their final rating as if it was a national concern rather than a pop song election. Certainly there are many speculating on what changes will occur in Azerbaijan before next years contest. Already a major stadium is being built and Bakuvians are preparing for the onslaught of tourists and media attention.
Hopefully Europe won’t just look at politics and pop music, but at the enormous and colorful musical history of Azerbaijan. The first “Eastern” opera was written here, and the unique style of “mugam jazz” blending traditional folk styles with jazz rhythms was also created in Azerbaijan. Visitors should take the opportunity to see musicians performing live such as Rain Sultanov, Sevda Alekperzade, Isfar Sarabski, and the rock group Milk & Kisses.

We’re looking forward to seeing you in Baku next April!

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Esperanza Spalding wins Best New Artist

This year the Grammys surprised everyone by giving an enormous gift to jazz fans. Esperanza Spalding, whom we’ve praised before, won a Grammy for Best New Artist - and she is the first jazz artist ever to do so. "I really didn't think it was going to be me," Spalding said after her win. "I was one of those [surprised] people. ... It was so unexpected, that's the truth. I'm grateful to all my people in my big musical family that have given me so much support and help over the years,"

Since she won out over the incomprehensibly popular Justin Bieber, we are delighted at the result.

The 26-year-old Portland, Oregon, native really is an artist, not a media-hyped pop fad. This year musicianship and creativity won out over PR and marketing. Both in the studio and in interviews, she is gracious with her musicians, focusing the attention on the art of creating music, not on herself. She taught herself to play the violin at age 5 and played with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. She played guitar, oboe and cello before settling on the bass as a teenager. Graduating from Berklee College of Music on scholarships, she released her first recording, Chamber Music Society, and became discussed in jazz circles (we reviewed her album on this blog). Now, with the Grammy, millions more are discovering her music and we hope that it motivates her to greater musical experiments.

You can watch some of her work such as this at the White House or here at NPR

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Jazz Quote of the Day

Jazz is a white term to define black people. My music is black classical music.

Nina Simone

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Jazz Photo of the Day

Django Reinhardt

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Ulviyya in OK! magazine

Ulviyya is featured with other Baku jazz professionals in this month's OK! magazine in Azerbaijan.

Issues can be purchased at newstands throughout Baku.

Hurry and get your copy!

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Ulviyya Marries in Baku

On September 25, Baku witnessed the marriage of Ulviyya Rahimova in a private ceremony to Jake Jones, and American democracy worker.

This link is one of the many media stories which covered the event attended by performers such as Azad Shabanov, Dilara Kazimova, Diana Hajiyeva, as well as guests from the United States, Ukraine, Latvia, Georgia, Czech Republic and many other places.

In addition to this big news, Ulviyya changed, or rather made an addition, to her name – Ulviyya Rahimova-Jones.

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Required Listening - Gloomy Sunday

In 1933, Hunagrian composer Rezső Seress set a poem to music. The poem, by László Jávor, discussed the sadness and horror of a vapid modern culture. The melody was perfected to fit this sentiment. Listen to the original lyrics in this Hungarian video.

And the literal English translation:

Gloomy Sunday with a hundred white flowers
I was waiting for you my dearest with a prayer
A Sunday morning, chasing after my dreams
The carriage of my sorrow returned to me without you
It is since then that my Sundays have been forever sad
Tears my only drink, the sorrow my bread...

Gloomy Sunday
This last Sunday, my darling please come to me
There'll be a priest, a coffin, a catafalque and a winding-sheet
There'll be flowers for you, flowers and a coffin
Under the blossoming trees it will be my last journey
My eyes will be open, so that I could see you for a last time
Don't be afraid of my eyes, I'm blessing you even in my death...
The last Sunday

The haunting sounds were considered so melancholy, so expressive, that many felt driven into despair by listening to it. And the despair increased its popularity. By the end of the thirties the song had been recroded in Russian, French, Japanese, German, Spanish, and English. The most famous recording may be Billie Holiday in 1941.

The girl who inspired the song, later killed herself with her suicide note reading only, “Gloomy Sunday”. Seventeen other suicides took place in Hungary where references to Gloomy Sunday were made (in the note or left on the record player). It was considered so depressive, that the song, including Holiday’s recording, was banned by the BBC for being “not at all in keeping with what we feel to be the need of the public in this country’.

After previous attempts, the composer committed suicide in 1968. Since then the song has been recorded by Elvis Costello, Sinead O’Connor, Bjork, Marianne Faithfull, Sarah McLachlan, Portishead, Ray Charles and Sarah Brightman. Click on the artist's name to hear their version. Each singer lends their own impression of emotion and the causes of melancholy.

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Ulviyya releases a new single - Turn Back (Geri Dön)

Ulviyya’s new single, Turn Back, (Geri Dön) isn’t her traditional jazz style. But any one of her fans who hear the song will recognize her signature warm tones, jazz influence, and the optimism typical of her. Even with the song Turn Back, pleading with a lover to reform, rekindle what was before, reunite broken fragments of a once united bond, Ulviyya manages to express the desperation of the text while accenting her own notes of desire and hope.

The line, ‘I haven’t filled on the days of life yet, I haven’t filled on my time with you’ shows a craving and desire that blends with the remorse and nostalgia of the song. For those interested, here is the original Azerbaijani text:

Son zamanlar üzünü görmədim, səsini duymadı heç
Yaşadığım günlərdən doymadım, səndən heç doymadım, heç
Yalvarıram bax mənə, dinlə bax sozlərimə, inansan hisslərimə
Gozlərində yuxu çox, ondan sənə fayda yox
Mənə garşı sevgin yox

Geri donsən o günlərə
Verdiyin sən o sozlərə
Bağışladığın hisslərə
Geri Dön
Geri donsən o günlərə
Verdiyin sən o sozlərə
Bağışladığın hisslərə

Geri Dön
Later the song speaks of her lover’s eyes full of empty dreams but with no real intention, with no action. Whether stuck in a morass of depression and sloth, or a whirlwind of parties, drugs, and illusions, Turn Back is a cry for return.

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Required Listening - Potato Head Blues

Louis Armstrong was the innovator of many great steps forward in jazz. He changed vocal styles, recording styles, even the way solos are performed. A fantastic example of this is the 1927 recording of Potato-Head Blues.

The actress Talullah Bankhead said she played this song in her dressing room for it's‘invigorating effect’. In Woody Allen's 1979 film, Manhattan, his character Isaac Davis lists this recording as one of the reasons that life is worth living. That may be an exaggeration, but then again I’ve never needed to make a list to prove life is worth living.

In many ways it’s a perfect performance – fun for the audience, innovative and original, and a great showcase of talent. Really, what more does a song need?

Listen to it. The music races forward from the first second with Armstrong’s horn providing a swinging melody as the clarinet rises above to echo the feeling. Then the trumpet breaks off to perform a solo with only the banjo as accompaniment. The again clarinet in a higher register as the trumpet halts but the banjo continues its strumming rhythm. The trumpet comes back and the band gives stop-time backup. The trumpet solos shadow Armstrong’s famous singing style (or his singing shadows his famous trumpet style). The song comes together at the end as the ensemble joins to meld the parts together.

This song pushed forward trumpet playing, changed the way solos were recorded, was innovative in its use of time (using breaks during the clarinet solo, syncopated rhythm, and stop-time during the solo), and changed the way ensembles played with more focus on solos. Jazz ensembles were less like a mini-orchestra and more a collection of creative individuals who had their own voice and style.

This is one of the important points in the musical timeline where individuality and creativity won out over petulant pop preferences – and won big enough to keep jazz that way for decades.

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