Band plays Bebop Jazz on tour of Uzbekistan
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) --
A jazz ensemble from New York packed concert halls and held classes for students during a week-long tour through Urgench, Bukhara, and Tashkent.
The Ari Roland Quartet toured Uzbekistan from 2 December to 7 December. The band had previously played in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, China, India, and other nations of Central Asia, but this was their first visit to Uzbekistan. The experience here surpassed all their expectations, said bassist Ari Roland at a reception after the standing-room-only concert at the Turkiston Hall in Tashkent.
“We met these two men at a jazz club in New York, and they said we should come to Uzbekistan, that it would be better than we would ever imagine,” Roland said after an improvisational session with dutor player Ilyas Lutfullaev, Mamurjon Alimjanov on the gijjak (a stringed instrument played with a bow) and other local musicians. “Well, I tell you, it has been even better than they said it would be. We have had just a wonderful, wonderful experience here. â€¦ I hope this is the first chapter of what will be a long story.”
Roland, Chris Byars on tenor saxophone, Zaid Nasser on alto saxophone and Keith Balla on drums play a repertoire that includes jazz classics from Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Cole Porter and others. They also perform original compositions by each of the musicians in the quartet.
Their tour of Uzbekistan was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, which has brought other “jazz ambassadors” such as the Brian Horton Quartet in the past year. The Ari Roland Quartet has visited more than 20 countries in recent years on U.S. State Department-sponsored tours.
“Jazz has always been a music that brings people together,” said Roland, who noted that jazz groups and audiences have always included people from every ethnic background, religion and social group. He said it is also a musical form for all ages of people. “It is a perfect place for the older generation to pass along their knowledge and experience, and for the younger generation to find their own voices and to contribute something new, which brings new life to the tradition.”
That blend of musical voices was on full display during a performance Dec. 6, when the quartet was joined by players on the dotar, gijjak and doira (a type of hand-held drum). The forlorn melodies and complex rhythms of traditional Uzbek music mixed beautifully with the saxophones and Roland’s stand-up bass while Uzbek dancers raised their arms and twirled across the dance floor.
Nasser, who has spent time teaching jazz in Armenia and Cyprus, said he saw so much enthusiasm for jazz during this tour that he would be interested in returning to Uzbekistan to continue his teaching.
The quartet started its tour on 2 December with a master class at the Music College in Urgench. They conducted a master class on 3 December at the H. Niyaziy Music College in Tashkent, and then performed during two concerts dedicated to International Disabilities Day at the Istiqlol Concert Hall.
They held a master class 4 December at the RASML Uspensky Music School in Tashkent before traveling to Bukhara for another master class Dec. 5 at the Music College.
The band then returned to Tashkent for concert on 6 December at the Turkiston Hall and wrapped up their tour on 7 December at the Jazz Club of the Photography House in Tashkent.
Roland studied music at the world-renowned Julliard School in New York, but he also began playing jazz professionally by the time he was 16. He would leave school and play jazz at home with his friends, then go out to listen to gigs at night. After the gigs, they would stick around to play in jam sessions all night long, he said.
“All we did was jazz,” he said in an interview with the magazine “Jazz Times.” Unlike many jazz bassists, Roland almost always uses a bow when he solos in what is known as the “arco” style.
Each of the band members has recorded jazz CDs, performs regularly in New York and on tour, and is active in music education.