Early career

The lively and emotional performance of Isfar was impossible to ignore; he played with great technique and revealed his deep understanding of the music. (Jazz Dunyasi magazine) This was Isfar Sarabski, aged 16, making his native audience sit up and take note at a jazz youth festival. Just 3 years later he was on a much bigger stage; judges and public in Switzerland falling under the spell - and Azerbaijan celebrated its first winner in the Montreux Festival piano competition. Feted and in great demand, Isfar’s first thought was not of fame, but of improvement. With a solid grounding in classical music since the age of 7, he went for the top; that meant Berklee College of Music. Another severe test for the boy from Baku, but again he impressed, being offered a scholarship.
“Jazzerbaijan”, the giddy publicity tag attached to last night’s double bill of Azerbaijani jazz at Ronnie Scott’s, was sounding soberly appropriate by the end of a dazzling display of generic shape-shifting by the young Isfar Sarabski Trio.

Acoustic

Classically trained grandson of a renowned opera singer, Azerbaijani Isfar struck his first international chord in jazz, winning the 2009 Montreux Festival piano competition – aged 19. Stunning audiences across Europe, the USA and UNESCO with music that is all of sensitive and stunning, classical and jazz, standards and self-penned, he is always on the move. And always on a solid base – from Mustafazadeh (look him up) back to Tchaikovsky – his playing always flows artistry and excitement. There’s never a dull moment or thought and an Isfar Sarabski live concert is exactly that. He lives his music, and so will you.

Electro

The other side of Isfar? A more recent direction and switch of soundboards to reflect more personal moods and private thoughts. Life is a mystery and this is music for night-time wondering and yearning - Le Vent Nous Portera floats in soft search, White Sign points and poses this way and that, its restless beat urging you on into atmospheric electronic landscapes. Whether drifting with like-minded club-based souls, or dreaming alone in darkened bedroom space, this music will take you to an imaginary somewhere. Early works, but you know there is more to come.

As for experience, he’s certainly been around: New York’s Apollo Theater, the Duc des Lombards in Paris, back to Montreux in the Miles Davis Hall and return appearances at the venerable Ronnie Scott’s in London, as appreciated by London Jazz News: Isfar Sarabski, still in his mid-20s, captured the audience with dramatic dynamics and sheer technical brilliance. His repertoire is equally expansive: we mentioned the classics, and his Swan Lake is something else. Bach and Chopin can appear, as can Piazzola tangos, jazz standards and pop. His home grown roots include pioneer jazzman Vagif Mustafazadeh, who wove the complexities of traditional mugham music into western-style jazz. Vagif’s legacy is there in Isfar’s own compositions like Novruz, celebrating the main spring holiday at home. There are many other inspirations: Déjà Vu the result of an art photography project. He has played in concert halls, clubs and cellar dives; going solo or with trios and orchestras. And his more recent adventures in electro promise many more wonders to come. Listen to this space.
You can tell when someone is really good as the staff here all come out to catch the end of the show. You turn around and there are 10 of them stood there watching
Ronnie Scott’s managing director Simon Cooke