Georgian Live Jazz Legend is 70

Jazz in Georgia began in the 1970s. Then, there was an iron curtain, but people once more proved how inspired they were towards freedom, no matter where they lived, whether it was in the Soviet Union or elsewhere. In those days, people used to listen to jazz secretly. But the trend spread. The patriarch of jazz is Gaioz Kandelaki, who began holding jazz festivals in 1970. He managed to ‘infect’ the future generation, including his own son and his friends, so much so that they gave up their own professions and founded the company Eastern Promotion, which has become one of the leading jazz brands worldwide, producing more and more sparkling stars annually. The last of their ‘pearls’ was held on the 26th of July – at the Black Sea Jazz Festival in Batumi. The ground today is undoubtedly much more fertile for this wonderful musical genre. Jazz is the music of freedom and offers people the chance to look at life with affection rather than competition, which is so rare in other realms of art. Jazz is defined by the people themselves, who have wonderful personal virtues besides their indelible talents. In this article, Georgian jazz guru Gaioz Kandelaki and the recent concerts dedicated to his jubilee will be discussed. His efforts have not been in vain as there are two jazz annual festivals and a monthly jazz series too, which proves that the jazz scene in Tbilisi and Batumi is indeed thriving.

A few days ago, Tbilisi City Hall hosted a performance by the Big Band at the Olympic Village, which was founded in 1997 by the skilled and respected musician Gaioz Kandelaki. Givi Gachechiladze has been its conductor since it opened, alongside a number of soloists spanning several generations.

The summer concerts began at the beginning of this month, at Event Hall, to celebrate Gaioz Kandelaki’s 70th birthday. It has been recognized that he has done so much for the development of Georgian culture overall and jazz in particular that the Georgian Minister of Culture awarded him with the title ‘Priest of Culture’.

Recently, on July 24, the Big Band played at the Jurmala Alternative Festival together with Diane Schuur, Deborah Meyer, Teatro di Milano and Jurmala Big Orchestra. The website of the festival described them as playing “jazz full of sun”. Tbilisi Big Band is the company that was conferred the main prize of ‘Best Jazz-Orchestra’ at a festival held in Monte Carlo in 2006, where they were characterized as having playing with a mix of Georgian music and Western European art. The novelty was that some scenes were staged and that the musicians actively participated in them together with the soloists. The potpourri, created on the basis of Georgian music motifs, was met with grand ovations. The judges made special mention of the founder of the band Gaioz Kandelaki and referred to him as a jazz pioneer in Georgia. Jurmala is a very musical town, and in spite of the fact that the new wave has moved to Russia, it still offers a lot of concerts.

“Last year, we were in Latvia and our ambassador there connected us with the organizers; thus, we have been invited to this year’s Alternative Festival,” Kakha Markozashvili, Director of Tbilisi City Hall Big band told Georgia Today. Reportedly, the band performed some songs for the first time, for instance, Georgian Tsitsinatela and Megruli Potpourri: “It was particularly nice because there was not just a concert but the music was accompanied by polyphony. Our soloists – Maia Baratashvili, Mariko Ebralidze, Giorgi Sukhitashvili, Boris Bedia, and Zaur Shavgulidze played to the Latvian audience.”

Recently, the Georgian Ministry of Culture issued the title of Priest of Culture – one that is reserved only for living legends. Gaioz Kandelaki turned out to be one of them. He is a very humble and sophisticated Georgian gentleman. On being congratulated on this award, Gaioz replied: “Thank you. I didn’t even know that my friends were about to hold a concert, and I of course had no idea at all that the Ministry was going to award me with the title of Priest of Culture. It was very nice. We are working for people and when somebody sees and appreciates it, it’s particularly pleasant at my age. I must also say that there are a lot of other honorable people who often stay out of the limelight. This award belongs to the whole Big Band and will be held in great esteem. I would like to immensely thank once again the Ministry of Culture.”

On July 27, the Big Band performed for the Olympic Village with traditional foreign hits, entertaining the participants of the ongoing Youth Olympic Games with a lively musical program. The Tbilisi Big Band will close the summer season with a tour of Azerbaijan where, at the Gabala International Music Festival, they will give a concert on the 31th of July, performing almost the same program as they did in Jurmala. In the near future, they are also set to play at the Minsk Jazz Festival.

Maka Lomadze

30 July 2015 21:48