Eldar Djangirov made a smashing debut in the U.S. by appearing as a guest (at the tender age of 12) on Marian McPartland's long-running NPR radio series, following up with his debut recording two years later. At the age of 16, he issued his second CD, maintaining his working trio with bassist Gerald Spaits and drummer Todd Strait, while trying to build upon the promise of his first release. This studio date leans more heavily on compositions by legendary jazz musicians. Djangirov is now fighting the same battle that faced the likes of Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, and similar virtuoso players: how much to rein in his chops. The introductions to each of the first two tracks, "Caravan" and "Bemsha Swing," prove this almost overwhelming, though he seems to settle down as the rhythm section joins him. He gets into the funky spirit of Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" while adding his own touches. The bluesy interpretation of "When Lights Are Low" met with the approval of its composer, Benny Carter, and the lively calypso treatment of "Capricious" obviously delighted its creator, Billy Taylor, both of whom offered enthusiastic support for the young man's playing. But Djangirov especially excels as a solo pianist on his sophomore release. His moving arrangement of Bill Evans' bittersweet ballad "We Will Meet Again" and the furious original "Handprints" (an obvious reworking of Wayne Shorter's landmark modal composition "Footprints") are alone proof of his tremendous growth as a player during the two years since his debut CD. Eldar Djangirov hardly seems likely to flame out as did so many young stars who debuted during the 1980s and 1990s. Highly recommended.
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