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Come January and it’s jazzfest time again

The heady jazz-blues revival train that whistled through Calcutta last winter and left aficionados screaming for more in its wake, is set to gather more steam this time round. After the scintillating jazz-rock collaboration of Jonas Hellborg and the late Shawn Lane had cast a spell over Nazrul Manch in February this year, the city readies to welcome another duo of global jazz icons next week.

Sangam, an Indo-jazz fusion group, featuring George Brooks on tenor sax, guitar legend Larry Coryell, flautist Ronu Mazumdar and young tabla talent Vijay Ghate, will regale music lovers at the G.D. Birla Sabhagar on December 5. Come January, and the jazz scene will pick up tempo again with ‘Jazz Blues & Beyond 2004’, an attempt to revive the erstwhile JazzFest, that had brought to Calcutta such titanic acts like Mingus Dynasty and the Rena Rama Quartet.

At the heart of the back-to-jazz/blues/fusion movement is again Congo Square, the registered, non-profit society of a bunch of like-minded music-lovers from the city, formed early this year. The same core group was responsible for hosting the JazzFests between 1978 and ’82 on the St Paul’s Cathedral grounds that brought to town over 30 international jazz groups and musicians from various countries.

“Although we have been active on the scene throughout the year, in the form of co-hosted gigs or inputs, Sangam will be our first independent concert after the Lane-Hellborg show,” explains Vivek Dev Burman, one of the founder-members of Congo Square. The society's objective is to “organise and enlarge the audiences for this kind of music and to promote mutually-enriching interactions between visiting and Indian musicians”.

For Coryell, who has played alongside the likes of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Paco De Lucia, Pat Metheny, Al Di Meola and John Scofield, this will be the second visit to Calcutta. He had filled in for John McLaughlin at a Shakti concert in town in the early 80s. Brooks, who has collaborated with Zakir Hussain most fruitfully and with a host of other Indian classical artistes as well, will be playing his tenor sax for the first time in town.

While the Sangam quartet will surely set the tone for the season, Jazz Blues & Beyond 2004 (slated for January 23-25, 2004) will bring together some of the biggest names in world music. While the venue is yet to be firmed up, Dalhousie Institute, which hosted the first JazzFest in ’78, is one of the options Congo Square is exploring. “Because of the 10 pm ruling, we are trying to extend the festival by a day and start on January 22,” says Dev Burman.

While the famed occidental-oriental fusion band Rena Rama Quartet/Oriental Wind will be back for an encore, Hellborg will also return with U. Srinivas, Jeff Sipe and V. Selvaganesh to do a memorial concert for departed friend Lane, who passed away earlier this year.

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