The three-day JazzFest 2014 ushered in the winter sound at Dalhousie Institute, in association with t2. snapshots...

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By Text: Arindam Chatterjee, Mathures Paul, Pramita Ghosh and Deborima Ganguly Pictures: Rashbehari Das, B. Halder and Sayantan Ghosh
  • Published 5.12.14
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DAY 1

Ska Vengers: Sexual politics or socially-charged lyrics, Delhi-based Ska Vengers struck the right notes to get the crowd in the mood for JazzFest 2014, in association with t2, supported by Congo Square and organised by Littlei, from November 28-30.

“There is something about the rhythm that makes you want to jump,” band member Samara Chopra (also known as Begum X) told t2 after the gig. The BDSM-themed Rough And Mean or the empowering Woman Of The Ghetto, the set celebrated ska movement’s distinctive style powered by Kishore Sodha’s trumpet… yes, the man who has worked extensively with RD Burman. “Stefan (‘Flexi’ Kaye, band member) got him to play on a couple of our songs but we met him in person only a month-and-a-half ago and that too on stage. No rehearsals, he arrived directly from the airport and plugged in his trumpet,” said the band’s vocalist Delhi Sultanate, adding that a second album is in the works.

Malcolm Braff’s Greenwoman project: “You can’t miss him,” said Greenwoman vocalist Claire Huguenin. She was obviously referring to project leader Malcolm Braff’s beard! Hitting off the set with a version of the Tears For Fears classic, Everybody Wants To Rule The World, the group soon shifted gears to pure jazz and Fossils member Chandra was spotted dancing in front of the stage. “The music is very technical but it doesn’t show on the surface. It’s something very groovy, something you can dance to. I just shake it the way I feel it,” said Claire, who danced through the hour-and-a-half-long set. Malcolm Braff’s project is the result of a Pro Helvetia (Swiss Arts Council’s office in New Delhi) artiste residency programme that was held earlier in the year. And India never fails to inspire. “It was clearly an explosion of sounds, sights and tastes. You don’t know how lucky you are… I’ve become a masala dosa fan. I also like idlis in the morning. And the masala chai!” added the 32-year-old from Switzerland.

DAY 2

The Bodhisattwa Trio featuring Monojit Datta: A song paying tribute to the 1993 Mexican film Cronos, an interpretation of a Wayne Shorter tune, and a percussion guru (Monojit Datta) playing conga with his student (Premjit Dutta) on drums.... The Trio packed a powerhouse performance on Saturday. Starting off with the high-octane Locked Up from their album Intersections, the Trio moved to the number Cronos, inspired by the film of the same name. “The tune is an attempt to present the story from the point of view of the protagonist, who gains immortal life at a very heavy price. The tune is a reflection of the protagonist’s suffering,” guitarist Bodhi told t2. Their set took a jazz fusion turn when Monojit, aka Kochuda, joined them for an interpretation of Wayne Shorter’s Over Shadow Hill Way and 0305. “Harmonic complexity is an integral part of our sound and we thought that the Wayne Shorter classic would blend in effortlessly with our set of original material. Drawing from his artillery of rhythms, Kochuda found a perfect synthesis of the conga and the drumkit. The way he added drama to the tune was priceless,” said Bodhi.

Mishko M’ba and the Jaco Pastorius Tribute Band: The four-piece band led by French bassist Mishko (right) paid tribute to Jaco, the late legendary bassist, and looked back at the heady 1970s with their first tune for the evening — a cool rendition of Weather Report’s Birdland (Jaco was a part of Weather Report). The first strains of Birdland had jazz lovers nodding to the beat, and the infectious groove had some of them break into a jig. The band also played Weather Report’s Teen Town, along with other tunes like Bright Size Life featuring Jaco.

“For the set list, we chose different periods of Jaco’s musical life — as a composer with Teen Town, Continuum, Portrait of Tracy and 3 Views of a Secret; as a band member with Weather Report; as a side man with Pat Metheny (guitarist) and Herbie Hancock (pianist) and some tunes he liked to play like The Chicken or Donna Lee. Pastorius is still the greatest. He gave so much to the electric bass guitar. He made it a new instrument using harmonics, chords, solos, melody and rhythm. To me, playing Jaco’s music is a big honour and I just hope that young musicians have the desire to know more about him,” said Mishko.

Four On A Swing featuring Sumith Ramachandran: The swing jazz lover got to hear everything from bebop to hardbop to modern jazz at DI, thanks to Four On A Swing! The swing jazz band charmed with their interpretations of jazz numbers like George Benson’s On Broadway and Cannonball Adderley’s Work Song. “All these legends of jazz have written melodies that are so groovy that they propel the rest of the tune into a high-energy zone. The idea for the set list was to honour the purist form of jazz and showcase Aniruddh (drummer) and Willie (bassist) as a great swing rhythm section. Then we brought on Emmanuel to hit the flavour of Latin rhythms in jazz,” pianist Pradyumna Singh Manot aka Paddy told t2. Once guitarist Sumith

Ramachandran came on board, the band did tunes like Billie’s Bounce, Maiden Voyage, Work Song, and ended with an “uptempo, funky cha cha cha arrangement” of On Broadway. “It’s always a learning experience when Sumith is playing,” added Paddy. And the best part of JazzFest? “The atmosphere for sure! The people who are there. The musicians. The organisers. The jazz lovers. The newcomers. Everyone is happy to be part of a festival where music is the main thing.”

“We look forward to JazzFest every year because the music is great, the weather is nice and it’s a good opportunity to catch up with friends. Day 2 had a lot of Calcutta musicians performing. I enjoyed Bodhi’s act. He is brave and challenging when it comes to music. Monojit playing with them was a stroke of genius because even though he’s a Latin music specialist, he has the ears and the heart to play any kind of music and he definitely added a lot to the trio’s music,” said vocalist Jayashree Singh, seen with beauty expert Bridgette Jones.

“It’s a very good fest and a great initiative. It’s not often that you get to enjoy so many jazz bands performing in one place. I liked Ska Vengers and Four On A Swing. Malcolm Braff is also a very good musician. The ambience here is wonderful and the young people very friendly. The weather fits very well with this kind of music,” said French consul-general Fabrice Etienne.

t“Day 2 was great fun and the highlight for me was definitely Mishko M’ba and the Jaco Pastorius Tribute Band. I thoroughly enjoyed Mishko’s bass playing. The great thing is apart from covering Jaco Pastorius’s music almost note to note, he did improvise on the solos. The entire band was very tight,” said singer-actress Subholina Sen, who plays a Christian girl, Ana Marlo, in Souman Bose’s film Kash (Puff).

DAY 3

Tharichens Tentett: Lead by Nicolai Tharichen on the piano, the German 10-piece band belted out compositions set on poems by Dorothy Parker, Edward Thomas and Joachim Ringelnatz. “Can anyone see the moon from their seats ’cause I can’t. Is it there? Good to know because the next song is about somebody longing for his adored one and envying the moon because the moon can see her and be close to her but he can’t,” said Nicolai before launching into the song Lady Moon. Apart from their original compositions, Tentett also played Schlafe, mein Liebster (Sleep, my beloved) which is part of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

The Shuffle Demons: The Canadians, with their crazy suits and even crazier antics, started off with a bang. They entered the DI grounds playing their music from the side and wove their way through the audience. Once they were up on stage, it was difficult for most to stay in their seats. “It’s so wonderful to be here,” said saxophone player Richard Underhill. Before launching into One Good Turn, he said, “This song is about sharing your life, smiling every day and saying yes to the world.” He welcomed tabla player Soumya Shankar Roy on stage, who joined them for two numbers. The song Cheese on Bread was dedicated to the kitchen at DI! “We had a wonderful meal here. On the road we always look forward to the food. It has to come at the right time, and that’s what happened with the kitchen here,” added Underhill. The Canadians made sure the festival ended on a high note when they once again came down from the stage and formed a human train. The song for the moment? Their hit Spadina Bus. The saxophonist played on standing on a chair and just when everyone thought the gig was about to end, they went back on stage, much to the crowd’s delight. All’s well that ends well.

“I liked Tharichens Tentett’s music. Rarely do we get to hear a proper brass section in Calcutta. Their set gave me goosebumps as they changed from one genre to another with ease. The band would sound like a jazz band one moment only to suddenly sound like a Spanish one, from a classical sound with musicians playing the role of a vocal choir, to suddenly sounding like an R’’B band. It was mind-boggling,” said composer Raja Narayan Deb who came with wife Zinia.

(L-R) Percussionist Sourav Chatterjee, guitarist Rajkumar Sengupta, drummer Deboprotim Baksi and Nishit Arora, the man behind Jamsteady. “The Shuffle Demons’s music was very groovy and more on the modern side with loads of improvisation,” said Rajkumar. “The Shuffle Demons’s set was like a perfect ending to the fest with their energy and the way they interacted with the crowd,” said Nishit.

(L-R) Chianna Shah, Anam Hossain and Srishti Chowdhary — all Class X students of Calcutta International School — had a great time at JazzFest. “I loved Tharichens Tentett,” said Chianna who started listening to jazz music because of her dad. “Most youngsters don’t listen to music like this because they’re busy listening to pop music but jazz is so smooth. I love it,” said Anam.