Thursday, December 26, 2013

Enver Izmailov

Enver Izmailov: A Guitar From The East That Conquered The West.
Interview by Olga Potekhina

Introduction from Olga Potekhina: This is neither an academical concert, nor a jazz soiree. This is something absolutely original. Enver Izmailov is a unique phenomenon in the space of the musical Universe, and I believe we are very lucky to have an opportunity to attend this incredible guitarist's concerts within our post-Soviet area. In our parts, only one musician has mastered this technique - two-hands-tapping, when sound is produced by fretting strings with both hands' fingers - and this one is Enver Izmailov. It is he who invented his technique independently of his American colleagues (namely Emmett Chapman with his Stick), back in the late 1960s. 

Also, French musicians call the music that he composes and plays "imaginary folklore". A Crimean Tartar raised in Fergana city, Uzbekistan, Enver Izmailov creates lush virtuosic patterns for the guitar - Eastern, Uzbek, Tartar, Moldavian, Bulgarian: Being solely Izmailov's, they are colourful, characteristic and instantly recognizable even when heard in variations on well-known melodies. Experimenting with soundmaking, Izmailov develops some dazzling effects, and his guitar often turns into a lute, a synth, a cimbalom, a percussion kit, a sitar: His mindblowing technique and temperamental melodies of Balkan and Eastern peoples with "nonsquare" 5-, 7- or 9-beat time signatures, hot licks, choruses and refrains invariably drive listeners all over the world into sheer rapture. In 1995, Enver Izmailov was awarded The Grand Prix at The European Guitarists' Competition held in Lousanne, Switzerland - it was then that he was handed the Blade electric guitar. As of today, he has two CDs released (both by Boheme Music); one of them is a solo work titled "The Eastern Legend" and the other, "Minaret" is recorded with Narket Ramazanov on flute and clarinet and Rustem Bari on percussion. Playing frequent dates in France, Switzerland, Germany and other countries, Enver Izmailov does perform at various jazz festivals in post-Soviet areas, too. Fortunately, sometimes he visits Odessa. One day before his concert I had a chat with Enver - an outstanding musician, but also a man with an open heart and good sense of humour.

OP: I have seen some poop (may well be dated) in the press about you working in a local club and living in a kolkhoz in the Crimea's Dzhankoi region: But, really, where do you dwell now?
EI: On the train. I'd like the plane better, though.
OP: And your family?
IE: My family: in Crimea, over Simferopol.
OP: ???
IE: I mean a hill with a view on Simferopol.
OP: They squat like mountain eagles?
IE: Not quite, but like some flying folk. My family consists of four - namely myself, my wife and two kids. We live with my mother-in-law in my father's house, which we have builttogether.

OP: And your kids - it's like "a boy and ... a boy"?
IE: No, two girls. They like music, too, but would not study it.
OP: By the way, something about studying: haven't you got an idea to record your own video "guitar school"?
IE: Sure I have. But I want to make it a good thing, and this requires:a little strength.
OP: And, of course, living somewhere else than trains?
IE: Well, maybe, but deep down I'm still a nomad, I need to move, I don't like just to sit around!
OP: But why not contemplate the school on the train, to a rhythmic clickety-click?
IE: Oh no, not me... Clickety-click... Our trains, you know, are the "trainest" in the world...
OP: But your rhythms are not four-four too, you do sevenths, ninths, elevenths...
IE: Point taken! Why, I should think about a piece with a name of "To a strange clickety-click"!

OP: Well, Enver, you are often compared to Stanley Jordan, and his music and style are utterly different... Doesn't that bore you?
IE: Yeah, it bores me too. I don't even like his playing. Incidentally, his technique is also quite different. I think that the people who say such things haven't really heard any Stanley Jordan.
OP: And you - can you imagine comparing yourself to some other musicians?
IE: But I mean, there aren't any counterparts, as a matter of fact! This is my technique, and I have invented it myself.

OP: But what do you mean by inventing a technique - is it like inventing radio or bicycle?
IE: The invention always goes through blood, sweat and tears. This is the case with my technique. A man may keep trying to approach such invention for decades, whereas the problem may be solved in five minutes time.
OP: Just like Newton's apple? In your case, though, it should fall on the hands, not head?
IE: I'm not sure about apples - a brick did. We were building a house then.

OP: Enver, how much do you think should one practice to keep up your performing technique?
IE: Of course the more you practice, the better. I used to practice 8 to 10 hours a day. Then tours began, and I lost that opportunity.
OP: Your prize from the Swiss competition - the guitar - do you still use it in your work?
IE: Yes, here it is! I added some tricks to it myself, but generally speaking, there's nothing special to it - just a good production instrument. In our albums we used to utilize such "tricks" as a glass, a handkerchief...
OP: Accidentally or intentionally?
IE: Naturally, there was some quest; you know, every object affects the sound in its special way.

OP: Have you put something else to work?
IE: My nose! Once I produced a note with my nose - honestly! Now I don't - the nose have grown too big (OP: a joke).
OP: Today you're playing in Odessa, and what about your further tour schedule?
IE: I go to where I'm invented to. Recently I turned up in Dibrov's Anthropology program, then there will be a festival called Boheme Jazz in Moscow, then I'll be playing at a festival in Vladikavkaz, then Nice, France - there'll also be a festival there. Then concerts in Switzerland, where I'll be also leading a workshop. After Switzerland - home, then a jazz festival in Yalta, then all over again... These tours begin to give me vertigo!
OP: Enver, what about domestic and foreign audiences - are the receptions they give you any different?
IE: Well, I'd say either community likes it. The receptions are the same regardless of area, but our audiences are easier for me to communicate to, because there's no language barrier. We'll see if I'll be able to get along with Odessites... (He was, particularly when he announced a "Genuine Moldavian... Lezginka"! - OP)


OP: Last year you came to Odessa as a trio. Are you still working with those musicians?
IE: We will be playing as such the other day, in Donetzk, but I don't tour with a trio full-time - nowadays financial issues are a common trouble.
OP: Once Norwegian press wrote, after your concerts: "Such famous figures as Paco de Lucia and John McLaughlin might grudge him his inventiveness and originality of thought". Would you be prepared to do a concert with them?
IE: I'm awfully flattered, but it would not be fair to Paco - we are so different! It would be hard to find a common language.

OP: Well, perhaps Paco de Lucia plays straight Spanish guitar, but let's take some jazz guitarist - Allan Holdsworth, for example. Don't you think you'd make a good ensemble?
IE: Oh, Holdsworth is a hell of a guitarist! I remember an accident in one of the foreign "workshops". Jennifer Button performed there, the same J.B. who used to twang a guitar in Michael Jackson's group. We had a tour with flautist called Jeff Warren, and we came to this workshop. During the concert I see a guy with pen and paper approaching me. He says: "Allan Holdsworth? Autograph, please!" Back then I was so long-haired, just a different man: I say "what?" and he goes again: "Guitarist? Allan Holdsworth?" I say: "Yes, guitarist, Enver Izmailov". It was so fun! That's how I first heard of Holdsworth. Later I bought and listened to his albums - they're great!
OP: What's great is that you keep coming to our town! Thanks! Take it from me, Enver Izmailov's shows, whether solo or as a trio, are really great - so great that I'd like to persuade everybody who likes fresh musical experiences to have a listen to Izmailov's works (maybe CD, maybe cassette, but the best is to hear him live, because his performance should not be only heard, but seen as well) at the first opportunity.

December 1, 2000 
Translated by Paul Cachanoff.