Russian Saxophonist & Composer Azat Bayazitov Announces the Release of his Sophomore Album
The Doors Are Open
Saint Petersburg-based Rainy Days Records is proud to announce the June 19, 2020 release of The Doors Are Open, the new album from tenor saxophonist Azat Bayazitov. A follow up to Bayazitov’s debut album If You Still Trust, The Doors Are Open presents the powerful musical vision of this NYC-based virtuoso, in the company of a multi-generational, world class quintet: veteran jazz masters David Kikoski on piano, Adam Rogers on guitar, and Boris Kozlov on bass, propelled by on-the-rise 24-year-old Russian drummer Samvel Sarkisyan. Recorded in May 2019 in New York City, The Doors Are Open comprises eight programmatic originals that spur Bayazitov to tell vivid, impassioned stories with unfettered imagination, no-limits technique, and heroic sound.
Azat Bayazitov recorded his debut album early during his tenure with Russian impresario Igor Butman’s world-class Moscow Jazz Orchestra – Bayazitov joined the touring ensemble in 2014 and left in January 2017, when he relocated to New York City, where he’s lived and worked ever since.
“I dreamed of coming to New York even before I started listening to jazz, when I was 13 or 14,” says Bayazitov, who grew up in Kazan in Russia’s Tatarstan province. “Partly it was from pictures and movies, and I’m also a fan of skyscrapers, so I fell in love with the idea of moving to New York. In deciding on the title track, he continues, “I was thinking that although one can go anywhere and do anything, we still have borders — but we can open the doors. We can go outside or go inside. People have to think about how to do it. That’s jazz itself – tunes have a form that you have to follow, but you’re free to play what you want within those borders.” The open doors metaphor reflects Bayazitov’s attitude towards his distinguished bandmates, who solo at length — and at high levels of inspiration — throughout the album. “I want to give freedom to musicians,” says the bandleader, whose first name means “free” in the Tatar language.
Bayazitov showcases his inclusive philosophy and prodigious skills on the title track, which begins with a simple, affirmative melody that modulates harmonically and metrically through the theme statement, before Bayazitov and Rogers navigate a two-chord structure during their eloquent declamations. Similar notions mark “Magnet,” the album-opener, on which Bayazitov and Kikoski uncork corruscating solos over a form that switches back and forth between declaratively executed funk and swing grooves. “People with similar ideas are magnets; one feels something, and the other will feel attracted to it,” Bayazitov says. “Places also have their own energetic magnets, like New York, which is a huge magnet for me.” He elaborates on that theory by relating the gestation of “On The Other Side Of The Bridge,” composed during his first sojourn to the United States with the Moscow Jazz Orchestra. “I was sitting under the Brooklyn Bridge, watching Manhattan, thinking how near it was, and hoping to be able to move here and live a jazz life — it was so far from me at the time.” The panoramic “Midwest Steam Locomotive” stems from Bayazitov’s second U.S. tour with the Moscow Jazz Orchestra, when he experienced the landscapes of the American heartland — the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the black hills and badlands of South Dakota, the flat farmland of Nebraska. “I was shocked by the beauty,” Bayazitov says. “I’d dreamt about the feeling of Manhattan, but the smaller cities of the Midwest — the other America — inspired me more than New York.”
Bayazitov uncorks a fervent solo on “Midwest Steam Locomotive,” as he does on “The Huge Sky Of Kazan” — an evocatively soulful melody, not sentimental, but saturated with emotion — which portrays the feeling of his hometown and homeland. “Tatar music has a pentatonic base and a lot of grace notes — almost an Asian quality,” he says, perhaps pinpointing the source of the bluesy-gospelly quality that infuses the notes and tones. He’s the lone soloist on the autumnal “Long Fall,” inspired by Joe Henderson’s interpretation of Gil Evans’ classic “Miles Ahead” on the iconic 1990s release So Near, So Far. Cushioned by Kikoski’s plush accompaniment on Fender Rhodes and Rogers’ subdued chordal interpolations, Bayazitov evokes a bittersweet aura of airy cool, tinged with melancholy but with an attitude of optimism. A similar mood comes through on “The Past,” a nostalgic, gospel-tinged love song for a girl Bayazitov knew during his teenage years.
Fittingly, the album ends with “Highway To The Dreams,” another aspirational testament to the power of following your joy, a notion upon which Sarkisyan signifies with ebullient, funky grooves. “Samvel is my favorite drummer,” Bayazitov says. “I played with him many times; he knows my music well.” Sarkisyan, an Armenian-descended Russian whose recent employers include vibraphone hero Joe Locke, hails from Rostov-on-Don.
Since moving to New York, Bayazitov has established close ties in the jazz community, but has actively put his diverse experiences to good use by also taking many other genre-spanning gigs. “If you only play jazz music, you will only have jazz gigs,” he says. “But if you play all music, you’ll have all the other gigs as well – I play in rock bands. I play funk and Latin music. I play in church. It’s a huge spectrum of music that you can’t find anywhere else.” As The Doors Are Open proceeds, you can hear all of Bayazitov’s experiences, refracted through the jazz spirit of freedom. He credits Rainy Day Records for allowing him the space for self-expression. “I was surprised when they offered me a chance to record with the people I wanted – I can say that I got exactly what I wanted from this record.”
More about Azat Bayazitov
Born in Kazan, Azat Bayazitov studied violin from ages six to fourteen, at which point he then switched to classical saxophone studies in a local music academy. “Jazz came into my life and turned everything upside-down,” he says. “Kazan is a big city, but had almost nothing in jazz except a local big band playing Glenn Miller-styled sets. So I checked out recordings first.” Hearing a cassette of Joshua Redman’s Spirit Of The Moment: Live At the Village Vanguard – which he describes as “still my favorite recording” – was a transitional moment, leading him to absorb and transcribe solos by Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane. In 2007, Bayazitov entered Moscow’s Gnesins Academy of Music, where he studied saxophone with Alexander Oseichuk. In 2012, Igor Butman began hiring Bayazitov as a sub in the Moscow Jazz Orchestra; by 2014 he was a full-time member. “We always worked,” Bayazitov says, noting the band’s frequent trips to the U.S. and collaborations with heavyweights like Terence Blanchard and Bob Mintzer. Also in 2013, Bayazitov shared a bandstand for the first time at a jam session with Kikoski and Seamus Blake, after the collective group Opus Five played a concert in Moscow. “From Seamus’ fat, loud, beautiful sound, I finally understood how the horn has to sound,” he says.