July 24 (Bloomberg) -- Jazz edged out the classical music of his boyhood piano lessons, but Eldar Djangirov couldn’t stay away from Bach.
After releasing his debut CD of jazz standards in 2005, “Eldar,” the 26-year-old Kyrgyzstan native has blazed a trail in the musical world with his dual vocabulary: April brought a jazz trio recording, “Breakthrough,” while the following month came the solo classical effort “Bach/Brahms/Prokofiev.”
Eldar and his jazz trio mates, drummer Colin Stranahan and bassist Rick Rosato, will have the backing of a full orchestra when they take the stage Sunday at the Saratoga Choral Festival.
We spoke over a cup of coffee at French Roast, a cafe on Manhattan’s Upper West Side near his apartment:
Cole: You had just enrolled at the University of Southern California to study music when I first met you, and then you dropped out. Why?
Eldar: I was on the road a lot. I actually failed jazz combo because I was absent so much. That’s not to say that I didn’t learn anything at USC. There was a great professor there, Shelly Berg, who is now the dean of the University of Miami’s music program.
Our lessons were very much about composition and just sharing classical music together. That’s pretty much my entire practice routine, composition and improving different sides of my brain.
Cole: Why do you often play in the trio format instead of in a quartet or quintet?
Eldar: I like the smaller band format because I’m playing piano in a lot of sections on these songs, so I have to have space basically.
Cole: It’s unusual to see two albums emerge from one artist released within months of each other.
Eldar: Sometimes you’re at the mercy of your will. You’re so inside what you’re doing and it just happens. There were three different styles that enriched my playing. These two releases are like three stories but they’re in two records.
Cole: When did you develop a love for music and start playing?
Eldar: When I was five. I played classical music until about age 13. Then I played jazz because classical music was torture for me. My mother was a music instructor. I didn’t enjoy it.
Cole: But then you returned to classical music?
Eldar: When I was 18 and going to school, my interest in it was re-sparked. I realized that classical music gave me a certain sensibility and command of the instrument. I felt that it was missing from my life and I revisited a lot of works.
Cole: How does your classical background aid you as a musician?
Eldar: There is a certain undeniable logic that exists in in any great music. You see why certain pieces of music are put together. That particular logic is probably the reason why I like any music, how good the musician is at building the architecture of a composition.
Cole: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten about being a musician?
Eldar: Your level of accomplishment is going to be as high as the heroes that you choose. Whoever you choose your heroes to be, that’s what you’ll strive to become.
Cole: You’ve had a lot of success early in your career. How has that affected your outlook on your career?
Eldar: There are some people who get success, and they become complacent. I think my success bought me time to do more rather than just to sit and do nothing.
(The Eldar trio performs Sunday at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s Little Theater at 3 p.m. in Saratoga Springs, New York. Information: +1-518-791-0185; http://saratogachoralfest.org.)
(Patrick Cole is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own. This interview was adapted from a longer conversation.)
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