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Four-day stage for all that jazz

With just the right nip in the air, the Congo Square Jazz Fest 2009: Edition 2, in association with t2, is all set to rock the Dalhousie Institute lawns for four evenings starting Thursday.

The “biggest jazz festival in India” with more than 11 bands will also pay tribute to city-based vibraphonist/pianist Anthony Menezes, who died in August.

“We’re shifting the timing of the annual festival to November because it just makes sense. A lot of groups come down to the Jazz Yatra in Mumbai, so hooking up with them not only ensures reducing costs, it ensures the quality of music,” said Tapan Desai of Congo Square.

The fest from November 19 to 22 offers a wide listening flavour ranging from traditional straightahead, jazz-funk and jazz-rock to a varied blend of fusion, touching on Indian classical music, with groups from Germany, Italy, Poland, the US and Spain. Among others, the fest showcases the return to Calcutta of the American trio Beatlejazz, with percussionist Brian Melvin at the helm of things; Dutch trumpeter Saskia Laroo, often called the ‘Lady Miles Davis of Europe’; the duo of German guitarist/oud player Wolfgang Netzer and sarod player Ranajit Sengupta and the Mumbai-based Interplay, featuring some of the best-known names in contemporary jazz in India.

The Congo Square event is known for its experimental bent. This time, the surprises might begin right from the first group, which is the 10-member Tharichen’s Tentet from Germany, scheduled to raise the curtains at 6pm on Thursday. Day One will also feature the Rafal Gorzycki Ecstasy Project Trio from Poland and Beatlejazz. “For me, this tour is very special. I have been playing the tabla since 1976, so India is special; my first teacher was the late Ustad Alla Rakha. I was doing Beatles and jazz 25 years back, so Beatlejazz does all Beatles, but in its own way,” Melvin of Beatlejazz said on Wednesday evening.

Day Two will feature the Andrea Marcelli Trio from Italy, which had collaborated on the Mira Nair film Mississippi Masala. The Saskia Laroo Band closes Day Two, while Saturday stars the fusion group of Wolfgang Netzer and Ranajit Sengupta, featuring percussionist Ratul Shankar. “I really squeezed time out for this festival, it’s a busy time,” said Netzer. “Being Bengali, being Indian, this is the best that I can offer with another musician friend from another culture to my city,” said Ranajit. This will be followed by the Barcelona-based Jaime Vilaseca Quartet, a cutting-edge band in European contemporary jazz.

Sunday is dedicated to the memory of Anthony Menezes, with the oft-seen figures of Pondicherry-based French bass player Mishko M’ba and drummer Suresh Bascara, along with singer Andrea Jeremiah and pianist Steven Devassy. “This group will play standards; Anthony’s grandchildren, who are prodigies, will also guest on this band’s set. Interplay, with singer Sonia Saigal, closes the festival, with Adrian D’Souza on drums, Sheldon De Silva on bass, Harmeet Mansetta on keys and guest guitarist Dhruv Ghanekar.

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