International Jazz Day 2016
International Jazz Day is a global tribute to more than a century of an extremely onerous musical tradition and its upheld virtues. While celebrating the years of vocal and instrumental endeavour, the event also promotes the sentiments of peace, unity, inclusion and cooperation promoted through Jazz.
India is no stranger to the genre. Jazz performances have been a regular feature at the most prestigious of venues in Mumbai and Kolkata since the 1920’s. Over the years, patrons have appreciated and promoted the best Jazz talent both domestic as well as global.
On the 6th International Jazz Day, Blue Frog (Mumbai) hosted an enthralling performance by musicians, both well-known and upcoming. It was an exceptionally crowded night at the club not to mention the hoard that was being held back by the ribbon barricade outside the gates. I was lucky to get in early while many were, pre-drinking their way to an elated ‘Jazz Ready’ state.
Some of the night’s performers, Gary Lawyer, Caralisa Monteiro, Samantha Edwards, Dominique Cerejo, Joe & Shefali Alvares, Isheeta Chakravarthy among others, delivered top notch renditions of classics by Jazz vocal legends like Al Jolson, Ray Henderson, Horace Silver, Cole Porter, Eden Ahbez, Benny Colson and Betty Carter. The True School of Music team joined in for spectacular renditions of songs by Betty carter and John Coltrane. The show wouldn’t have been complete without instrumental performances by pianists, guitarists, bassists and drummers like Karim Elaboudi, Indrajit Sharma, Ron Cha, Sangeet Haldipur, Karl Peters, Louiz & Gino Banks, Dhruv Ghanekar, Sanjay Divecha, Anurag Naidu, Khwab Haria, Saurabh Suman, Vinay Kaushal and Teji Toko. The night’s youngest performers, Kush Upadhyay, Kashyap Iyengar and Esaani Dey were without a doubt spectacular both in terms of presence and skill.
Camera in hand, I walk up to the front of the stage, to capture perfectly illuminated shots of the artists performing that evening. Besides dodging a dozen other photographers and cheering members of the crowd, focusing on the space between the countless mic and keyboard stands was a bit of a challenge, considering it was my first time on ‘assignment’. Trial and error with varying shutter and aperture settings yielded a sum of 1334 shots. I remember stepping on Sanjay Divecha’s toes while trying to get a clear shot of the ever cheerful Gary Lawyer, blessings are definitely due.
Some thoughts on Jazz.
Some years ago, I remember an old friend from college —aficionado of 20-something instruments— running up to me, guitar in hand, going, “Hey, check out these new Jezz (Jazz As pronounced by him) chords I picked up from YouTube.” While he spoke about chord progressions I had never heard or seen before, I recalled the first and last day my first guitar tutor began teaching me Mel Bay’s music theory.
Eventually, I did pick up the theory behind dominant, minor, major sevenths and diminished chords, I made sure I used them in every song I wrote. One song in particular, was a progression of chromatic power chords and dominant sevens in E-Minor. Voila! Theory applied. Not really, it was just me breaking some rules yielding a 4 minute long song that was nowhere near what Jazz actually is.
In an interview with Zee News, Louiz Banks describes Jazz as a form of musical freedom where bum notes are not necessarily perceived as harmonically unpleasant. “You can play anything you want. Yes, giving that kind license can sometimes prove dangerous as well.” While at the performance that night it was natural that the musician in me would latch on to the spectacle of instrumental and vocal skill. I guess me tapping to odd rhythms was the reason I had quite a few shaky shots. At times, the instrumental and vocal improvisations seemed like some sort of telepathy between performers. It’s always hard to comprehend the ease with which notes are played by fingers that seem to have a mind of their own. As Mr. Banks perfectly puts it, “The calibre of a musician is judged by what notes he chooses to play.” The hours spent in focussed practice earns them that degree musicianship. The way in which Jazz musicians shatter fundamentals, is owed to those hours of dedicated practice.
Photo Credits: Jason Rasquinha