Sunday, November 22, 2009

An evening that tested the tenets of Jazz

Bangalore was lucky on the 20th of November, last Friday, to be precise. Lucky because some quiet giants of Jazz descended upon the city. This privilege was hitherto reserved only for Mumbai and Delhi, where Jazz Yatra and later Jazz Utsav have been a date to earmark every year in the music aficionado’s calendar for the last 25 years.

Wayne Krantz, Anthony Jackson, Cliff Almond and David Binney headlined the Jazz Utsav ’09 at the Ambedkar Auditorium. And what a show it was. The opening act was a thoroughly experimentative jazz rendition of the work of the Beatles. By drummer Brian Melvin’s band. He along with David Kikoski form the BeatleJazz band. As Kikoski wasn’t able to join the band for the Jazz Utsav '09, Jon Davis supported him on the piano and Peter Barshay on the bass. For the record, Melvin has an impressive pedigree. He has played with Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Greg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band and the bass legend Jaco Pastorius.

They started out on a soulful rendition of John Lennon’s Beautiful Boy and went on to play other tracks like A Hard Day’s Night (where local guitarist Amit Heri joined in), Strawberry Fields Forever, Let It Be and few other Beatles favourites. Before finishing up with a rousing rendition of Eleanor Rigby.

Then the stage was set for the masters to light up the stage. Wayne Krantz has performed with Steely Dan and Michael Brecker. Anthony Jackson invented the six string contrabass guitar. Cliff Almond has played with many a jazz great in the US and the unassuming David Binney is considered a great compositional talent and a virtuoso on the saxophone. Now, what do you get when you put them together? Highly experimentative, free flowing jazz that doesn’t fit into any norm.

To get a dekko into the mind of Wayne Krantz, here’s a snippet from an interview. “There are a lot of disagreements about the word, ‘jazz’. For some people, it’s a specified set of sounds. We push our boundaries a little bit. We improvise. And our sounds will not resemble with what people generally associate with jazz,” he noted. He added, “The word jazz is broad in a way it doesn’t mean anything now.

They enthralled the audience for an hour and a half. And probably disappointed some, who had come in thinking they’re going to spend an evening listening to smooth jazz. For a country like ours which is starved of such pure Jazz music, it was an evening that was unforgettable. While I doff my hat to the legends for their music, I’d also like to thank Amit Saigal of Rock Street Journal for making this show happen.

“Raise your horns to the heavens and blow them in tribute to the great God of music, who presides in splendour over the Jazz Yatra.”

Sonny Rollins, 25 years ago at the first Jazz Yatra in Delhi.

Posted by Murali.

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