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At a few good gigs

Inspired by a jazz show in town, musician NONDON BAGCHI turns the page to pick his four favourite concerts

Even if you have the finest of music collections, life is incomplete without a memorable live concert every once in a while. Studio and stage are two entirely different worlds; more and more so every day with technology having brought us so far that we can cut and paste to our heart's content and a track cut in a studio might involve musicians who haven't even been together at the same time and place. Their inputs could have been recorded months apart.

Even live concerts can be overdubbed and doctored and it is up to the integrity of the artistes to create things in the studio which could just as well be an honest to goodness live performance, too. Unless, of course, the material is studio specific and not intended for the stage anyway.

Just how exhilarating and inspiring a live concert can be is something we in Calcutta experienced just the other day ' Friday, January 27 ' when the Kenny Garrett Quartet performed at the Dalhousie Institute.

I would go as far as to rate it among the best four or five concerts I have ever attended. Kenny Garrett on alto and soprano saxophones, Carlos McKinney on piano and keyboard, Kristopher Funn on upright bass and Ronald Brunner on drums. Four people, but one mind.

So high on energy and exuberance, so tight and tuned into each others' impulses and directions and at the same time so unbelievably relaxed and obviously enjoying themselves, this was a stage party that could keep an audience happy for years to come. The main dialogue was between Garrett and Brunner, a giant of a drummer at the tender age of 24.

Drawn as if by a magnet to the side of the stage where Brunner sat, we were mesmerised by his brilliance. Completely ambidextrous and possessing the highest level of technique, he still never overplayed and showed great maturity in dealing with the nuances of hard bop, which was the style in which the first two pieces were composed.

Often, Garrett turned his back to the audience and faced Brunner, dancing in front of him whilst creating spinning, swirling motifs with his alto sax, the two in tandem with absolute pinpoint precision, riding on the laidback but razor sharp bass lines of Funn with McKinney's rich full piano cementing the whole thing together.

Ever so often, the quartet reached such a peak that it seemed that things would spin out of control but it never did. They just threw back their heads and laughed, changed direction and carried on regardless. It was infectious stuff and had everyone walking on six inches of air. There were lyrical and poignant passages too, when Garrett switched to soprano sax and then the tempo picked up again and when vocalist Lisa Henry joined the quartet to bring on the finale, the whole place was rocking and people were walking around with grins on their faces.

The Rolling Stones

The Stones

Going back chronologically, another among my top four live concerts would have to be the Mumbai concert of the Rolling Stones' India tour in April 2003. I made the pilgrimage to the Brabourne Stadium thinking that this was not Wembley, nor was it Madison Square Garden; 25,000-odd people, not a 100,000. Would they give it their best shot' Or would it be just another day in the office'

But from the first bars of the opening song Brown Sugar, the sheer commitment of the greatest rock and roll band in the world was evident. Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood, Jagger himself and new bassist Darryl Jones (who used to be with Miles Davis) in a two-hour-long vintage Stones set with all their humdinger pieces ' Tumbling Dice, Start Me Up, Honky Tonk Woman, Jumpin' Jack Flash ' Jagger exuding charm and devilry, Richard at his best, Ron Wood faithful to the immortal licks, and Watts laying it down in his inimitable way, this was an experience of a lifetime. Despite the hype surrounding the Stones, the seriousness with which they take their music is what has made them who they are, though of course in a career of 45-odd years, there have to have been some indifferent patches along the way. Fortunately for us 25,000, this was a top flight concert which we will carry the memory of for time to come.

Dr John

Then, to the summer of 2001, visiting family in the UK, a friend announced that she had two tickets to a Dr John concert at an auditorium in London, I misremember exactly where. Dr John the Night Tripper ' Mac Rebennack his real name ' was promoting his latest album Cajun Moon, which indicates his New Orleans roots.

During our college days, when all-night listening sessions were common, we had a couple of 33 1/3 RPM vinyl albums by Dr John which we played till the grooves disappeared. His unique brand of rock strongly influenced by the hoodoo-voodoo of the melting pot that is New Orleans sets him apart with tracks entitled Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya and Loop Garoo.

When The Band (one-time backup group for Bob Dylan) decided to quit after 17 years on the road and held their farewell concert which was made into a movie called The Last Waltz, Dr John was one of the many legendary performers they invited. The film ran in Calcutta for a couple of weeks.

Charismatic as ever and with his trademark voice which you can never mistake, Dr John, backed by two much younger musicians on guitar and bass, sat at his piano and pounded out his set which climaxed with his well known In The Right Place At The Wrong Time from the album of that name. Another memorable concert.

The Dead

And finally to 1993, a massive indoor stadium in Boston to see The Grateful Dead. Friends called to say they had tickets but my visa didn't extend that long. My only hope was to convince the guy at JFK airport itself that I be given a few days more. I was lucky he stamped me in and I got to see The Dead.

From the first note of Playing In The Band, 20,000 people started dancing. Not me. I was transfixed. Fate had given me a place where I could minutely observe Bill Kreutzmann ' one of my very favourite drummers ' at his drum kit. Mickey Hart was there too, doing double drums. It was a special treat.

They did a three-hour set and I was surprised by the number of songs by other people they covered ' mainly Dylan and Hendrix ' though they adapted them so completely to their own style they may have written them themselves. Another occasion when everyone left starry-eyed.

What is common to all these experiences is the commitment and self-belief these artistes have. A lifetime's dedication playing with people irrespective of age, size, shape, colour or origin. And when they have one of their magical nights and the communication is strong, it makes one think: 'So much for all the cynics.'

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