11. Azerbaijan — ‘Always’ by Aziza Mustafa Zadeh
Oh, Azerbaijan. It’s been a difficult one.
This is not the album I first selected. I picked another one — I won’t say the name of the artist — by who is, apparently, one of the most important musicians to come from Azerbaijan. Multiple awards, concerts around the world, collaborations with other famous musicians.
I’m only eleven albums onto this project but I’ve already listened to stuff that’s quite different from what we mostly consume here in the UK. Afghanistan, Angola, Austria — they couldn’t be more different. Well, I just couldn’t digest this album I had originally picked. It felt like something I could just not connect to, but I decided to give it some time. After three weeks, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. Being in the middle of a pandemic, with a third national lockdown that’s lasted since Christmas, and horrible weather may have not helped. Let’s say my mind was not in the correct space to focus on that album.
So I then selected this one from 1993 by Aziza Mustafa Zadeh. One of the tracks is dedicated to her father, Vagif Mustafazadeh, who was the founder of ‘jazz-mugam’, a blend of jazz with one of the many folk musical compositions from Azerbaijan and part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
To be honest, I did also struggle with the album during the first week. Her piano skills are incredible, and there’s a lot of energy — sometimes, too much. Every track is intense, a great display of jazz talent, but sometimes I felt I just wanted a calm moment, some silence. Even the relatively quieter pieces seem to hold some tension. Nevertheless, if you’re into jazz, you’ll like it. It reminded me of Chick Corea, and you definitely feel the mixture of styles. It’d probably be great to see her live — she also sings-, and on Youtube there are several live performance videos and she sounds great.
If we get out of this pandemic I promise I will listen to my initial choice and to this album again, and give them both a second chance. Azerbaijan, it’s not you, it’s me.