Jazz pianist Eldar Djangirov is a young prodigy – only 17 years old, he has already established his own voice in jazz.
Now an 11th-grader at Francis Parker School, he was the first-place winner at the 2001 edition of the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. He has been profiled on CBS’ “Sunday Morning” and is the youngest musician ever featured on Marian McPartland’s “Piano Jazz” series on National Public Radio. He performed live during the 2000 telecast of the Grammy Awards and has released two accomplished albums, 2001’s “Eldar” and the recently released “Handprints” (both available through his Web site, www.eldarjazz.com).
He doesn’t remember much about growing up in Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous country near China. But he does recall that jazz events were rare in his hometown of Bishkek and that the first live jazz performance he experienced was his own, in 1995.
While Djangirov had no difficulty adjusting to life as an American, he was dismayed to find young people here as ignorant about the riches jazz has to offer as their peers in the former Soviet Union.
“It makes me feel a little confused, because the true, unique American art form is jazz, and it’s recognized around the world,” said the devoted pianist, who spends three hours a day practicing.
“Kids my age haven’t heard much jazz, and there are so many things in jazz that might appeal to them. Jazz in the schools, and music education in general, should be increased, not decreased. Jazz is what I live for.”
(Eldar Djangirov and his trio perform Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the San Diego Museum of Art. Tickets: (619) 696-1969.)