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Second Cup Café: Eldar

At 20, Eldar has outgrown the title of "prodigy," but the young man who Billboard magazine said has "the fastest hands in jazz" is what his fellow musicians would reverently call a "monster."

He visits Second Cup Café today to share music from his third major label album, "re-imagination."

Eldar Djangirov was born in the Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, where at age 3 he would sit at the piano and play, note for note, compositions he learned from listening to the recordings of the legendary Oscar Peterson.

His mother began giving him formal piano lessons at the age of 5 and it wasn't long before he began performing.

When the late arts patron Charles K. McWhorter heard the 9-year-old Eldar at the Novosibirsk Jazz Festival in Russia, he immediately arranged for the youngster to attend music camp at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan.

The family moved to a suburb of Kansas City when Eldar was 10 years old and he continued to study technique, harmony, improvisation and arranging through high school.

In 2001, at the age of 14, Eldar took first place over many older competitors at the International Lionel Hampton Jazz Piano Competition.

Eldar's self-titled 2005 major label debut won great reviews, including one from the New York Times which read, "Eldar combines Art Tatum's superhuman velocity with echoes of Oscar Peterson's grandeur ... an all-things-to-all-people prodigy whose formidable technique is wedded to a mature grasp of musical structure."

Last year, he released "Eldar Live At The Blue Note" which featured guest appearances from trumpeters Roy Hargrove and Chris Botti.

Of his new album, Eldar says, "This is the first record I've done where I focus more on composition than playing standards or working in the standard setting of a trio."