Angel Zaberski Jr.: Listen to jazz! It doesn't hurt

I want to be front-rank in everything I touch as a musician

Angel Zaberski Jr.

Jazz is not scary music. My idea is to give true-hearted music to the audience. Most people are afraid of jazz, they think it is hard to listen to. I saw how people who do not know this music pull a face hearing it, jazzman Angel Zaberski Jr. says in an interview to Europost.

Mr Zaberski, how did the Big Band in Action project come into being?

It was a long creative and organisational process. Everything kicked off years ago on slow speed and in the course of working together our musicians matured. I was interested in 'big band' as a jazz formation. When I started composing the guys liked what I did. My colleagues were inspired when they saw that something different was happening to them in terms of music. I was elated and went on, so bit by bit things have shaped up. As time went by, many people joined our project. I am happy that I can work with some of the best musicians and they do trust me.

Was it your original concept to have a fluctuating lineup, do you often change front-line players?

It is changing because we are all busy. If somebody is engaged, he has to be replaced. However, the hard core remains unchanged. It is important that we publicise ourselves as a band and I build myself up as an author. Jazz is not scary music. My idea is to give true-hearted music to the audience. Most people are afraid of jazz, they think it is hard to listen to. I saw how people who do not know this music pull a face hearing it.

Is it a question of intelligence or something else?

It is a question of both intelligence and sense of music, as well as one's drive, ear for music and mentality. We are choked with musical weeds - all media belch out bad music that sounds flat. I very rarely hear live music performed by musicians. Of course, it does happen, but I'm talking about commercial music. Cultivation of taste starts in the family, school, one's closest environment, and depends on your needs. What I am doing is not scary. I make good music for listening.

Do you have a project that you favour most?

I would like to put my heart into everything I touch as a musician. This is my credo. All projects are my favourites.

Are your first childhood memories associated with music?

No, my first memories are associated with child's play. Our generation really knew how to play. Music dawned on me with the piano classes taught by Rayna Nenova. She was indeed an excellent pedagogue who made me get the feel of the piano keys. I was only six when my mom and dad spruced me up in a smart tartan suit and took me to my first class. It was their decision, I myself was not yet interested then. Nevertheless, I was curious and did not kick against my parents. As my mom says, I was an amenable, mild-tempered child who did as he was told to. I was not an infant prodigy, nor a genius, but I have always been a high achiever. I played a lot. My time was carefully apportioned so that I was not deprived of anything. I am very grateful to my parents for this because it let me grow up as a normal person.

Was there any tipping point in your life that set your course as a musician?

Yes, there was a critical period when I was a teenager. Then I was foolish, an airhead who would neither play the piano nor do anything meaningful. I played the hooky at school and smoked secretly. It was a period I had to live through. Then my parents gave me guidance and thanks to them I quite naturally went in for pop music. It was interesting to play cassettes at home. I was admitted to music school and later graduated from the conservatoire.

Is it hard to be a child of famous parents?

It has never been hard for me, I have never had any such complex because I was brought up to uphold the family honour. I have never been in the shadow of my parents. On the contrary, they always kindled me and taught me to strive to be a good musician. I have never felt a sense of entitlement, I am proud of my parents and they are proud of me.

What traits have you inherited from each of your parents?

The first seven years I owe to my mother. I owe my basic upbringing to her. Then my father took over my musical education. He did not tell me what to do but gave me guidance. He gave me ideas which I did not turn down. Sometimes I did not want to do everything he told me to, but years later I realised how right he was. As for personality traits, I owe my diligence in work to my father. He was always painstaking in his attitude both to himself and to those around him. I am not that pedantic, but sometimes I force myself into it, because these traits are helpful. My mother is more mild-tempered, more romantic. My romantic streak is from her.

What are the most valuable instructions you received from your parents?

To uphold the common values: industriousness, honesty, trustfulness. However, with the course of time, I started doubting the value of the latter. Credulity is a dangerous trait.

Have you had similar tastes in music or have you argued about it?

My father sparked my interest in opera. For this reason we have two pieces after Puccini's arias in Big Band in Action. But we have never had long discussions on such topics.

As regards art, how far can one go with making compromises?

It is a complicated and good question. Sometimes you cannot but make a compromise, it happens to all of us, and it is human. However, it depends on what you compromise with. If I set out to write music, I never make compromises with myself. I miss out on certain things. I do not know whether we could qualify it as a compromise, but after my first year in the academy I went to work abroad. I didn't miss anything, on the contrary - I made some money and saw how one can make money with music. I no longer make compromises with professional hygiene when it comes to music. I am doing what I want to do. I don't do anything beyond the things that agree with me in terms of professional aesthetics.

What are the artist's greatest enemies?

Idleness, inconstancy. Compromise that we talked about.

Who of the musicians make you feel proud?

First and foremost these are my parents. And next to them the musicians I work with.

And what do you do in your leisure time?

I lie down and relax. I have enjoyed myself plenty in my life, now I prefer to have rest.


Angel Zaberski Jr. is a renowned pianist, composer and conductor who has been involved in many bold jazz ventures in Bulgaria. He was captivated by music from early childhood - his father is a composer and his mother is a singer. His professional career has been evolving with clock-work precision: first, piano classes with a private tutor; then the school of music; next, the conservatoire. He worked with the Big Band of the Bulgarian National Radio, launched his own projects and released many albums. Together with the Big Band in Action he delighted music lovers in Sofia and Plovdiv on 13-14 September. The lineup of his band featured jazz musicians with great achievements in Bulgaria and abroad: Mihail Yossifov (trumpet), Dimiter Liolev (saxophone), Stoyan Yankoulov (percussions), Boris Taslev (bass) and trombonists Velislav Stoyanov and Vladislav Michev. The guest musicians in the saxophone section were Tobias Hoffman (Germany), Ivan Ivanov (Macedonia) and Arnau Garoffe (Spain).

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