Even before 18-year-old pianist Eldar Djangirov played on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, the graduate of Linda Vista's Francis Parker School had sold over 50,000 copies of his debut CD Eldar Born in Kyrgyzstan in the former Soviet Union, Eldar moved to San Diego with his family about two years ago.
"Sony actually first offered me a contract when I was 12," says Eldar, who was improvising on Mozart by the age of 5. His parents nixed the deal because "They didn't want me to be exploited as some kind of novelty act."
Which is his favorite band? "Radiohead...I'd love to do a whole concept album like OK Computer."
Eldar's path from Bishkek to the United States is the stuff of jazz legend. At nine he performed at a jazz festival Novosibirsk, in Siberia, and impressed the late Charles McWhorter, a New York-based jazz patron. McWhorter obtained a scholarship for Eldar to attend summer camp at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, where he spent each summer between 1998 and 2001. In 1998, he and his parents moved to the U.S., beginning their new life in Kansas City.
During these years, Eldar continued to develop and impress everyone who heard him. Marian McPartland invited Eldar to appear on her NPR series "Piano Jazz" after McWhorter sent her a tape of his playing. Dr. Billy Taylor encountered him at a Charlie Parker symposium in Kansas City and booked him for an appearance on CBS's Sunday Morning.
Also in Kansas City, Eldar played for the Jazz Musician Foundation before Michael Greene, then head of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences, who booked Eldar to play on the 2000 Grammy Awards telecast. In 2001, Eldar participated in the jazz piano competition of the 2001 Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and won the top prize. The following year, he won first place in the Peter Nero Piano Competition.
Since then, Eldar has performed on the international festival and club and concert circuits, while pursuing his education in jazz harmony and improvisation with Kim Park and John Elliott. His family moved to San Diego in 2003, and he graduated from Francis Parker High School. in 2005.
In fall 2005, he matriculated at the University of Southern California, where he studied improvisation with pianist Shelly Berg. He was nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award for "Best Contemporary Jazz Album." By the age of 17, he had signed a multi-album deal with Sony Records and performed at the White House for President Bush.
Jazz legend Dave Brubeck once told The New York Time “He’s a genius beyond most young people I’ve heard.”
As of 2009, Eldar live in New York City, though his parents still live in Rancho Bernardo. His album Three Stories — Solo Piano was released in 2011, featuring fourteen songs including “Rhapsody in Blue,” by George Gershwin. Eldar played the tune when he returned to San Diego to play a show with the SD Symphony in July 2011.
In September 2011, he performed in Moscow with the National Philharmonic of Russia, before returning to the U.S. to play the Monterey Jazz Festival a few days later.