When Chick Corea came to perform on the Buffalo waterfront for one of the most awaited jazz events of recent years, he couldn't wait to tell his preconcert interviewer (me) all about this 16-year-old pianist from Tblisi, Georgia.
Jazz talents young and old shine on two new releases
Two new albums – the first celebrating a pair of industry veterans, looking back; the second, the impressive work of a newcomer, looking ahead – have crossed my desk in recent days.
Beka Gochiashvili: Where freedom is restricted, jazz cannot exist
He stepped out of the school into the Times Square neighborhood, which, as always, was noisy and crowded. What else might one expect mid-day in mid-town Manhattan? Walking along Eighth Avenue, he was beating a steady rhythm in the air with drumsticks and thinking about Herbie Hancock – turning over in his mind shots of that Hancock video he needed for his personal collection. “They may have that DVD in here,” he thought as he entered a video store. Before he even had time to open his mouth, a big guy towering over him was demanding to know “What are you doing here, boy?” Hearing the boy’s answer, the big guy grabbed him by his collar and threw him out into the street. A sex shop is no place for a teenager or Herbie Hancock.
At a recent showcase in New York, long-time friends and collaborators Stanley Clarke and Lenny White introduced 16-year-old piano phenom Beka Gochiashvili to an unsuspecting crowd of jazz fans at the Blue Note. In simple terms, the kid completely blew me away. His time was flawless, his technique impeccable, his touch and intuitive sense remarkably developed. And as a soloist, he had a killer instinct that belied his gentle demeanor. Truly this was an old soul living in a very young body.
The teenage Georgian jazz pianist wowing New York
SAY WHAT YOU LIKE about Condoleezza Rice’s grasp of Middle Eastern politics, but there’s no doubting her ability to spot a talented young pianist. Perhaps the then US Secretary of State saw something of herself in 11-year-old Beka Gochiashvili, when she watched him perform on a state visit to Tbilisi in 2008. At the age of 15, she’d played Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D Minor with the Denver Symphony Orchestra and had a promising musical career ahead of her, before ditching it for the less harmonious world of international relations.