Last Night: Eldar Leaves No Note Unturned at Tula's

The Eldar Trio played at Tula's in Belltown on Monday, October 26, as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival. They play again tonight at 8:30 p.m. There is an $18 cover ($10 for students).
Yes, it's one word. Like Ichiro. We can't pronounce his last name, but he's so good at his chosen vocation, that we'll forgive our ignorance and recognize him only by his first name.

I saw Eldar Djangirov perform several times when he was considered a child prodigy, before he was eligible for his driver's license, at a time in his life when he was more comfortable being introduced as a resident of his adopted Kansas City rather than his birthplace in the former Soviet Union. At one show, a traditional piano player who had supported his family in the trade for many years told me that Eldar was the only person in the world who ever made him want to quit. At 14 and 15, the way those young fingers annihilated the keyboard would blow you away. But the critical consensus -- at least at these shows -- was that Eldar played a lot of notes. And not in the frenetic Art Tatum kind of phrasings. Eldar was playing like his ass was on fire, hitting plenty of notes, but not enough of the right ones.

A high batting average was never on Eldar's agenda. At 22, he's not aiming for fewer, select notes. He's gone the other directions. He plays as many notes as he can -- more than you can hear -- and has added so many odd time signatures that I wasn't able to tap my foot once during the first, and only set, I caught Monday evening.

But unlike many of his former peers, Eldar's thinking up his own ideas. Indeed, the first two songs he flew through with his trio, filled out with bass and drums, were original compositions -- "Exposition" and "Blues Sketch in Clave" -- off his latest record, Virtue. The tunes pull as much from techno and the jam band circuit as they do from clasic Miles Davis and Count Basie records. At their best, the trio improvised on a plane that was awe-inspiring. At their worst, the band played bad jam music at its best: high on technical proficiency and short on melody, nuance, and subtlety.

Having more chops than you know what to do with is a good problem to have. And in Eldar's case, it's not likely that it'll be a problem forever. Though it would be nice if he'd hurry up and slow down a little.

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