In an article for www.mumbainet.com on the international Jazz Day Celebration in Mumbai this year I mentioned, that after I learnt to play Dominant Seventh chords, I used it in every song I wrote, assuming I was on the verge of a self-taught breakthrough in Jazz music. While I was quite proud of myself, I later wondered if I overdid it, perhaps I did. In my conversation with Khwab Haria and Anurag Naidu, two thirds of the Mumbai based jazz outfit, The Anurag Trio, I learn how they see jazz and how basic misconceptions and overthinking have restricted the true experience of its diversity.
After meeting, at a jazz workshop at Furtado’s School of Music, Napean Sea road in February 2013, the trio performed for the first time at a Guru Purnima programme with bass player Shovon Mukherjee. After a gap of over two years, their next performance was at the 2016 International Jazz Day gig at Blue Frog Mumbai, this time with Saurabh Suman on bass.
In the time between the two shows, Anurag committed himself to honing his piano playing skills at the Bill Evans Piano Academy in Paris. He says, “The people there had a very different outlook on music. Some guys were very philosophical, some were theoretical, some were very finicky about how you write music and some had a harmonic approach to music. It was a nice mix to learn from. The teachers at the school push you if you’re willing to go that extra mile.” With a higher degree of competition that he faced, Anurag feels that he progressed faster in his attempts to out-play his peers.
Khwab who learnt under several percussion maestros like Ustad Taufiq Qureshi, Vidhvan Sridhar Parthasarty, Gino Banks and Ranjit Barot. He says, “I learn from whoever I can, whenever I get time. I learn from Anurag too.”
Saurabh Suman, was a student of Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, originally from Delhi, he now lives in Mumbai.
Thoughts on the Genre
Anurag claims that their music, although influenced by jazz, shouldn’t be defined by the word jazz. He sees it as a matter of concern that jazz is looked at by many as a musical style. He says, “When I listen to Kurt Rosenwinkle, Brad Mehldau, Jack Pastorious, Herbie Hancock they don’t sound anything like what jazz used to be.” Jazz since the 30’s has changed a lot to what we hear today with jazz-Rock and jazz-Funk. He points out that the innovations in jazz music that emerge every decade are radically different from that of previous, “It’s a thought process more than a style and I don’t see why people are still caught up in definition of swing and blues as the essence of jazz.”
Arrangements and Improvisation
Arranging music for the trio can be difficult for Anurag at times, “It’s a very intricate process, to write for trios. You have to really factor in a lot of things. I only have the bass player for accompaniment and the drums have to hold down the beat and back us all up. If I had a saxophone player playing the melody I would have been freed up to make it sound harmonically a lot fuller. Here, I have to handle both (Harmony and Melody).”
Khwab says, “In a trio, all of us have to be very tightly knit, and the understanding has to be far deeper and intense. When he (Anurag) writes he adds certain polyrhythmic passages because that’s he knows that I’d be able to pull off well.”
When listening to jazz improvisations, it can often be an intimidating sight to see the reflex involved in a performance. The possibility getting lost in an improvisation section, isn’t entirely damnable, so they feel. Anurag says, “That’s the point of jazz, you’re at the edge, and you’re bound to make some mistakes. If I put a lot of theory into my playing and nobody feels it, it’s not a good place to be. You can’t force it, you don’t think when you play. You have to hear it and react and the more you work on your parts at at home, the better you react in a rehearsal and on stage.”
Music is an Outlook on Life
“Music can’t make more music”-Keith Jared.
It’s possible that the more time spent in practice with an instrument, the better the musical outcome. Anurag however, feels that spending 10 hours a day will not create as good a musical result as if you balance practice with experiencing life, “You should have an outlook on life to be able to make more music.”
He mentions the inspiration he drew from an art installation at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. “There was an entire wall of these old rusted, cookie boxes stacked from floor to ceiling. During the war, people would keep their most personal memories in these boxes and hide it in a wall.” Anurag points out to the concept that the artist portrayed wasn’t in the rusted artsy looking boxes but the collective sentiments that were concealed in them. “When you look at something that you don’t understand the mechanics of, you’re looking at it from a naïve point of view and that’s when you truly appreciate it. I want our music to be relatable to someone who doesn’t understand its mechanics.”
In relation to making music, he cites something that guitarist Sanjay Divecha once told him: When you go up to a bar tender and ask for some interesting, he’ll only pick those ingredients that go well together, like vodka, soda or lime. He won’t put all the alcohol standing on the bar shelf into one drink. Similarly when making music, jazz especially, it reflects insecurity if a musician squeezes all his knowledge of theory into every song. One has to pick what feels right and what goes well together.
The video below is from the trio’s first show with Shovon Mukherjee on bass:
Photo Credits: Jason Rasquinha