L.E.: I've known you from the very young age. We always treated you as a little Isfar, a boy of genius whom we love and for whom we had hopes. Now I see an absolutely mature man sitting in front of me who over the past few years has achieved much of what is worthy of respect and attention. I want to know about your recent project with Dhafer Youssef. How did it happen that you started a project with such a flamboyant musician?
Isfar: We first met at a JazzDay event in France. I had an opportunity to participate in the gala concert to which I was invited and it was a great chance for me. It happened that during that event we had to perform together with Dhafer. Unfortunately, for some reasons nothing came of it. It just so happened. After the concert which was a success we went to take a meal. And I saw Dhafer there for the first time. I took a try to approach and talk to him but he said, "I'll find you myself."
L.E.: You knew about him before, didn't you?
Isfar: Yes, I heard of him. I watched his concerts and knew he was a foremost musician. But frankly speaking, I had never thought we would have an opportunity to make a joint concert. When he said he would find me I smiled and didn't take it seriously. I went to Baku, and after a while one of the JazzDay organizers, a very nice musician, called me and said Dhafer Youssef had looked for me. Surely I was in shock. I didn't even think it was the very Dhafer, I thought it was some other Dhafer. I couldn't believe that. When he called me, the first thing he said was "Hi! You are like Michael Jackson. It is impossible to find you." Well, sometimes I disconnect. So, he finally invited me to the first concert. It was held last August, if I am not mistaken. He sent a programme to me which I was bowled over by because the music was very difficult for me. Firstly, it was the first time I had to perform with a foreign musician; secondly, the question of my first musical tour came up.
L.E.: How much time did you have for rehearsal?
Isfar: He sent me the recording about two or three weeks before. So I arrived for the first concert. We performed. We had two rehearsals in France. He liked everything very much. He said it was very convenient for him to perform with me, “You feel everything I want, you understand, we fly together, it's great, let's make a tour.”
I agreed and that was the moment from which our interesting story began, it had been lasting for a year and finished at the end of August. During that time I received a great potential in terms of knowledge, how everything happens and what it is a tour. I gained vast experience in understanding festivals, I mean there were lots of festivals, I had concerts before but this was quite different. A tour is when every day you perform in a new place, when you open your eyes in the morning and don't know which city you are in. I had a similar period after Montreux. To tell the truth, I am not a fan of such a crazy schedule, but here it is not that I had to, I simply wanted to perform with such a musician. It happened a couple of times that I didn't arrive in advance and at first Dhafer couldn't understand what I did. Then he understood that I changed the tickets all the time and arrived at the night before the concert. Once he said to me, "Isfar, don't do like that. I buy a ticket a day before in advance intentionally so that you have time to relax, be in good shape and good mood." So we made good friends with him. I can say I felt care from Dhafer, and that he understood that I was the youngest in this group. At first I was often late, I didn't take it seriously. But step by step I began to understand how strictly people treated their work; I got accustomed and began to practice responsibility. There were a lot of concerts; it was great to perform every day on different scenes and listen to his advice. This is how it was happening. Only today we called each other again, we are to perform in Beirut in five days. So, everything goes on. I am very happy!
L.E.: I think he has chosen particularly you for a good reason. Dhafer noticed and appraised your talent.
Isfar: The work with Dhafer was a new step for me. Plus music. The music we performed was very interesting to me. This is also very important when you take part in a project and the music is interesting, favourite to you. Sometimes it's quite the opposite, when you don't like the music. I try not to perform in such projects.
L.E.: What exactly do you like in Dhafer's music? May it be that you are attracted by Eastern modes?
Isfar: I think they attract me, too. Both the modes and the rhythm. I always loved everything rhythmical, and here what I have now. He set such tasks for me I had never known about. I always tried to inverse everything, to compose something new. But he composed even newer. Dhafer asked me to perform one rhythm in one hand and another rhythm in the other hand. Roughly speaking you are divided into two. You turn into a spider that moves in different directions. It was a challenge for me, I studied it for a long time, and I tried to master it because I wanted to perform very much, to remain with this group. And it's great that I started. When I came Dhafer said, "That's my boy! You did it! I just dreamed up. I wanted to know if it is possible to realize." I answered, "You said to me, I thought it was realizable." And Dhafer replied, "I just wanted you to check if it is possible." These are the interesting musical moments we had there. All this helped me become tempered in terms of music.
L.E.: Besides your dynamic musical activity abroad you have projects in Baku, too. Here people always wait for you and love you very much. It's such nonsense for a jazz musician to be popular. Not to be listened to, understood, but really popular. In the nearest future you will have a concert within Baku Jazz Festival. Tell us about this.
Isfar: Yes, it is a different and interesting project. This time Rain Sultanov set a task for me. It is great when a task is set. You fully get involved. You should be self-confident. It doesn't mean you should demonstrate your self-confidence to others. I think it's not correct. You should be self-assured in order to demonstrate to yourself. At this moment you begin to do things which are hard to you but which you would like to do. The experience I had with the organ was very interesting. As to the project we will present with Rain Sultanov within Baku Jazz Festival: I never played the organ. But it was interesting for me, I roughly understood what this music is like and it impressed me. Rain showed a piece of the recording to me which they performed with Elchin for the first time. I
liked it very much; it was very interesting to me. We called each other, I said I only need time to tune the instrument, because this music has completely different specific features. Rain agreed. A day before recording the album he said to me to come tomorrow to perform. To perform and to record. I paid no attention to the word "record". I thought we would write something with the piano or something else. Here I come, we practice things, and it happens that I see our sound producer already arranging the equipment and I understood that he was preparing to make a recording. While I thought I would practice for a few days. It turned out that this is what was great.
You know, I was not ready, but I organized myself because such a spontaneous recording is interesting in its way. There is a moment in music when you perform the same music for a long time, it can subside in terms of emotions sometimes. I mean you cannot already perform this piece so emotionally. You either need some break, or you need to perform something different. But here in this project we just started to feel the composition, to immerge into it as we already record it. Surely it becomes natural and so real. I am glad that we recorded it quickly and spontaneously. I am also very glad that Rain invited me to this project. It's a very interesting duet. When I listen to him I understand that we did it on a very good level. Such a cool sound. I am always ready for interesting projects. In principle, Dhafer's music is also spatial. You can think of it, you can assign your emotions the same way like in Rain Sultanov's music we recently did. This is what is the most important, I think …
L.E.: Thank you, Isfar! I will unveil a secret to you. The tickets to your concert are almost sold out. We are looking forward to it!