The art of jazz is a distinct area in contemporary musical culture. Jazz produces a particularly great impact upon the spiritual world of young people whose worldview evolves under the influence of their environment. Jazz is an unusual and largely paradoxical phenomenon that is unparalleled. Enchanting some and antagonizing the others, taking the form of entertainment or going deep into the domain of refined experimentation and philosophic contemplations, jazz is a turbulent and intense experience. Young people instinctively feel its freshness, the overwhelming dynamic impulse of powerful energy and force of life, which are not so vividly manifested in other departments of contemporary music. The magnetic improvisational character of jazz facilitates the development of creative abilities of an individual, his musical thinking and capacity for more profound perception of the universe, In Uzbekistan, jazz has found itself in an unusual habitat and assimilated with the traditional forms of musical art, giving birth to an Uzbek variety of ethnic jazz. It has naturally blended with various forms of contemporary folk art and created the most exciting musical and cultural phenomenon known as Uzbek jazz. Folk art and jazz share one specific feature that brings them close to each other: capacity for improvisation, which distinguishes folk singer and jazzman from a musician of academic persuasion. Folk art has had a beneficial effect upon jazz in Uzbekistan. Folk song acquires new properties in the context of jazz music.
Usually, jazz is an occupation for musicians who are infinitely in love with the art of improvisation and are unselfishly devoted to it. It has its own mystery, a magical impetuosity that is so beckoning and charming. Jazz requires from its performer a complete dedication, immaculate professional training, and, on top of that, a perfect skill with an instrument, fine and accurate intoning, ensemble culture and sense of style.
The history of jazz in Uzbekistan shows some clear milestones: the birth of jazz in mid 1940s. The first sympho-jazz was organized in Samarqand in 1944 lead by N. Zinin. The evolution of jazz in mid 1950s when jazz becomes a noticeable phenomenon in Tashkent, Samarqand and other cities of the country. An important milestone in its development was the establishment of the big-band-type State Pop Orchestra of Uzbekistan in 1958. Its founders — the People’s Artist Sharif Ramazanov and A. Dvoskin — were guided by the experience of similar bands abroad, which was reflected in diverse programmes of the orchestra. Soloists Batyr Zakirov and Luisa Zakirova turned to folk songs of oriental countries, which were very popular in their rendition.
In 1960s there appeared first jazz pieces based on Uzbek folklore material. These are instrumental pieces «Shodlik» and «Stellar Doyra» — the remarkable examples of Uzbek jazz. In 1968 Tashkent hosted the first national jazz music festival, and among its participants were professional bands such as the sympho-jazz of UzGosTeleRadio [State Television and Radio Company], big band «Module» lead by composer Edward Kalandarov, and other bands. The grand prix went to a quintet «Turkestan Starlet» (Sardar Mukhtarov, piano; Konstantin Dobrovolskiy, tenor-saxophone; Sergei Gilyov, double-bass; Yuriy Parfyonov, trumpet; and Alexander Tratsevskiy, rhythm section).
1970s were the years of training for jazzmen. During that decade a republican jazz club was founded, two jazz music festivals took place in Fergana, and jazz bands intensified their concert performance activity. An important factor in the development of jazz performance in the country was the opening of a variety department at the Hamza Tashkent Musical School and the organization of the Republican Entertainment and Circus Studio, which set the foundation for the training of professional ja2z musicians. One of the interesting pieces from that period was «Oriental Suite» first performed at the second Fergana jazz festival in 1978. The music of the Suite is characterized by prominent Uzbek national colouring. The nature of improvisations comes from harmony and intonation rhythmic basis that unmistakably reveals national belonging and monodic style of the music.
In 1980s the domain of jazz was expanding, and the activity of the Tashkent Republican jazz club intensified through the indefatigable creative activity of musicians and enthusiasts of jazz such as Sergei Gilyov and Vladimir Safarov. The musicians discovered the infinitely diverse jazz world, eagerly interpreting the music of Gershwin, Miller, Brubeck and other coryphaei of jazz.
With the attainment of independence the art of jazz in Uzbekistan entered a qualitatively new stage of its development. An important event in the history of Uzbek jazz was the opening of a variety department at the Tashkent Conservatory in 1996; the department invited authoritative experts in popular music such as Yevgeniy Zhivaev, Igor Pinkhasov, Pavel Borisov, Yunus Turaev and Valeriy Saparov. In 1998 under the leadership of Bakhodir Murtazaev a big band was created to become a kind of a forge that trained musicians who worked in this musical domain. Gifted jazzmen and young pedagogues Arsen Nazaryan, Rustam Artykov and Utkir Abdullaev take part in this creative process. An outstanding performance is demonstrated by a young jazz singer Aysel Balich, the owner of a beautiful voice of great compass. She stands out by her artistry, good taste, on-stage charm and musical culture, which earned the young singer great success and recognition. The big band gives many concerts, regularly renewing its programme, and hones its mastery, demonstrating high level of jazz culture among Uzbek musicians.
In 1990s Uzbekistan began to see a trend towards the initiation of children and youth into jazz music performance, which opened new prospects for jazz pedagogics. In 1995 a jazz club «Festival» was organized in the Republican secondary specialty boarding school named after V. Uspenskiy. The art-director of the club as well as of the children’s studio called «A Road to Jazz» is Vasiliy Uporov, an untiring promoter of jazz art, talented musician and pedagogue who has an infinite love for jazz and invests a lot of effort into the noble cause of developing high culture of jazz. Every year he organizes four jazz festivals called «The Four Seasons», which highlight aspects such as language, environment, work of authorship, and style. Laureates of this festival were some well-known jazz performers such as Diana Ziyatdinova, Daniel Khalikov, Ksenia Aizel, Rustam Abdullaev, andYuliaandLiliaUgai.
The Republican Musical College named after Hamza has also focused some of its efforts on teaching the art of jazz performance. In this oldest education facility jazz education is offered in two departments: vocal,-led by Tamara Isayan; and instrument*!, headed by Jamilya Naimova. College students participate in international and domestic contests, win awards and become laureates, asserting the authority of the Uzbek jazz school. Among international contest laureates are guitarists Andrei Galayan, Elena Fomenko, andAnatoliy Pak.
At the Republican Musical Academic Lyceum named after R. Glier a solid work is being done to promote and master the art of jazz. Head of variety department Dilfuza Zoitova guides and encourages her students to search for original forms: a combination between teaching the art of jazz and thorough studies of the national heritage with the search for new forms of their interaction. It is suggestive that in March 2008 the ensemble of traditional Uzbek instruments was invited to participate in the international jazz festival in Japan.
Fortepiano jazz has a particularly good development prospects in Uzbekistan. The prerequisites for that were created by fundamental basic piano education that has a long-standing tradition in the country. At the Uspenskiy School pianist Alina Alibekova trains gifted jazz pianists, teaching them the art of improvisation and the ability to distinguish between jazz styles and navigate freely in its contemporary streams. In the context of implementing a large-scale programme to fulfil the resolution of the President Islam Karimov «On the preparation of the 2009 — 2014 National Programme to strengthen material and technical base of children’s musical and art schools and further improve their operation» the priority area is to develop one of the key aspects of spirituality. Jazz culture will undoubtedly play an important role here. Basic musical education will involve training in variety and jazz singing and playing instruments such as guitar, accordion, saxophone, vibraphone, etc., setting up school big bands and different musical groups. Naturally, such companies already exist and function quite successfully today.
These, for example, are the talented sisters Yulia and Lilia Ugai who successfully perform with the big band of the State Conservatory.
Leading jazz artist visit Uzbekistan. For instance, on the invitation of Goethe Institute two German jazzmen performed with great success in Tashkent in 2005: trombonist and jazz virtuoso Konrad Bauer and guitarist Helmut ‘Jazz’ Zaks, who play a free style jazz. Our jazz and variety musicians and singers also successfully perform in Western Europe, delighting listeners with their original performance filled with oriental spirits. In this respect, of particular interest are the performances of Sevara Nazarkhan who works in ethnic jazz style. At the Batuki festival in Belgian Lommel this Uzbek singer was referred to as «the new star of the world’s music». Nazarkhan presented exclusive numbers, performing songs from her own series «Yil bulsin» that earned her a nomination of the «Asia’s Best Singer» of the BBC radio.
Sevara Nazarkhan was as successful in Germany (Berlin), Switzerland (Edinburgh), and Russia (Moscow). The Uzbek singer also has fans in the UK where people have long since appreciated her talent, powerful melodious voice, acting skill and expressivity. British radio station BBC granted her the World Music Award (a kind of «Grammy» for folk singers) in the Asia and Far East nomination.
The expansion of contacts between countries and nations is also facilitated by the coryphaei of Uzbek jazz art. Very efficient in this area is the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan and the laureate of international contests Mansur Tashmatov, the artist with a voice of great compass who is capable of igniting his audience with his oriental spirits. Mansur Tashmatov was a great success at the Astana Blues-2 international festival (2006) in which musicians from America, Russia, Moldova and Azerbaijan also participated. Tashmatov and «Jazirama» rock band from Tashkent led by him won the listeners by their unsurpassed mastery.
Also working productively are many country’s jazz bands, such as the variety and symphony orchestra of UzGosTeleRadio led by A. Ikramov, and the Batyr Zakirov band that carries on the cause of the Zakirovs famed dynasty.
The reb,nh of jazz in Uzbekistan is evidenced by the fact that Tashkent increasingly often becomes the venue for festivals that attract famed musicians from many countries. Convening numerous connoisseurs of stage performance, the festivals turn into a true feast of jazz. Their participants include both well-known domestic bands and soloists, and newcomers. An prominent event in the jazz life in Uzbekistan was the Super-Saxophone project; during four nights its designer Gerat Isanbaev and its participants — Yunus Gulzarov, Vladimir Teregulov, Bulat Mustaev and other performers delighted jazz fans with their skill.
Today musical schools of Tashkent educate future jazzmen performers and singers the new generation of artists who will propagate and promote the moral and spiritual culture of this musical art, enriching people’s spiritual universe and helping the harmonious development of a personality living in a free democratic society. Jazz is not merely music, but a state of mind and soul, and the way of life; it is something that will always be relevant and called for.