”He is one of the great pianists what I ever heard of ..” -Ahmad Jamal -
Modal at heart, improvisational in soul, academic in spirit, Azeri by roots; a cultural alchemy runs through Shahin Novrasli’s fingertips every time he plays.
A tempestuous fusion of jazz, classical and mugham, a traditional Azeri folk artform passed down through generations, his style captures the essence of his Land Of Fire homeland. Jazz-mugham; a style where East meets West,reflecting his country’s unique heritage and famous Butaemblem. A hopeful symbol of rebirth and evolution.
Shahin’s personal evolution began at the age of three when, encouraged by a rich culture of music in his family, he first started playing piano. It’s been both an academic and spiritual commitment ever since. From playing in symphonic orchestras at the age of 11 to his more recent studies of mugham singing, one of the most complex and challenging artforms in Azeri musical culture, his entire life has been characterised by a devotion that’s so intense you see it running through him as he performs.
Best witnessed live, Shahin is a tightly-coiled spring, poised between stool and Steinway like an arrow in a bow. Compelled by the honesty and purity of the artform so much he’s often in a trance-like state. This is why you’re just as likely to hear him reference Joni Mitchell as you are Bach orVagif Mustafazadeh in his repertoire. This is why a consistentthirst for fusion has become his jazz-mugham signature.
It’s also why he attracted the attention of the legendary jazz pioneer Ahmad Jamal who describes Shahin as one of the best pianists he’s ever heard. They’ve worked closely since meeting in 2014 with Ahmad producing two of Shahin’s most explorative and experimental albums so far; ‘Emanation’ (winner of UK Vibe Best Jazz Album 2017 award) and ‘From Baku To New York City’.
Now, as a new decade continues to unfold, Shahin continues to explore, experiment and collaborate with respected peers across different artforms, especially in his role as leading protagonist in London’s Buta Festival. One of the largest Azerbaijani art events in the world, like Shahin, its signature is fusion and breaking boundaries. Here he no longer simplyjoins the dots between eastern and western composition and jazz and classical styles, but also works in uniquemultidisciplinary collaborations such as his 2015 performance with dancer Akram Khan and, more recently, animators on his ‘Quarantine’ short movie.
Written by Buta Art founder Nasib Piriyev, the video highlights the transcendent spirit of Shahin’s work and is part of a whole solo album written during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. ‘Quarantine’ is part of Buta’s cultural schedule for 2020. Like all the creations the event wills into existence, it will reflect the country’s emblem of hope and evolution. The album will be joined by a second LP ‘Bayati’. Written and recorded in 2013 but timeless in its style and delivery, ‘Bayati’ – the mugham mode for melancholy – brings us back to the jazz-mugham fusion that’s driven him all these years; a cultural alchemy of east meet west, modal, improvisational, academic and deep Azeri roots.