Shahin Novrasli
Beejazz **** RECOMMENDED

The Azerbaijani pianist is joined by bassist Nathan Peck (of the thrash metal-inclined Alex Skolnick trio) and the cultured Philly Threedom drummer, Ari Hoenig
. Is Shahin the most exciting pianist to come on to the jazz scene this side of Aziza Mustafa Zadeh 25 years ago? Well yes, clearly, as Bayati marks the return of the mugham sound properly curated in jazz, that folkloric modal magic from Azerbaijan you’ll hear very occasionally, and you’ll cherish it when you chance on it. It’s mugham via strong and remarkably fluent modern mainstream piano stylings, and Shahin has a transcendentally-inclined technique which is quite beautiful to get a blast of when he hits his stride.

The Baku-born 36-year-old manages to fold in very supple fast improvising with a flexible classical technique and has a poetic side (that comes out not just on the sufi vocalising on ‘Fir & Giz’) and he knows his Chopin well from a jazz angle. The only one I can think of who knows it better is Andrzej Jagodziński.

By the time you hear Chopin’s ‘Prelude in E Minor’, the third track here, the ‘How Insensitive’ link excavated, you’re hooked. Shahin’s natural sounding born-to-play jazz chops are plain later on ‘From Mill to Station’ reminding me a bit of the late Mulgrew Miller but with some Bud Powell embedded in the sound buried deep back that beats a path back to the birth of bebop. Peck rumbles this tune along manfully and Hoenig has his skates on, never ever daring to look back.

The album, released by a French label, has its fair share of traditional Azeri music here arranged by Shahin (eg ‘Bayati Shiraz’ and ‘Elinde Sazin Qurbani’) as well as originals and the Chopin, and it’s an altogether intoxicating blend beautifully recorded in a London studio in January last year. SG