It's a balmy summer evening in May 1969. Trincas’ evening show is seconds away from commencing. Prawn Cocktails are seen floating around the dimly lit room. The crowd — clad in extravagant dress wear, ladies in evening gowns and men in suits — eagerly await the night’s ensemble. Moments into the song’s introductory chords, which is usually a fleet-footed number like Sugar Sugar by The Archies, every inch of the dance floor is covered in stilettos and suede shoes.
In the ’60s in Calcutta, Trincas was the place to be.
Today, history repeats itself as Willie Walters’ Jazz Quartet takes Trincas’ iconic stage for two-hour jazz sessions every weekend. “I want to offer a curated experience at Trincas, and jazz amplifies that. Jazz is a mood and Trincas is a mood too — it’s the perfect combination,” says Anand Puri, the third-generation owner of Trincas.
The weekend jazz sessions began in September 2021. “When we first started, I was quite unsure whether jazz would work or not. I always thought Trincas was not cut out for jazz because pop music has always been the most popular here. I remember telling Anand it would never work, but I was wrong. Trincas has been packed! Sometimes I pinch myself to see if this is really happening,” says William (Willie) Walters, the bassist of the jazz quartet.
(L-R) Arya Mukherjee, William (Willie) Walters, Aneesha Seth and Soumajit Sarkar
The quartet comprises Soumajit Sarkar on keys, Aneesha Seth on vocals, Arya Mukherjee on drums and William on bass. “Willie gets all the credit for putting the band together. He connected with each musician individually and brought them on board. I liked them instantly. Willie has always been fantastic at what he does, so I’m glad he made this happen,” says Puri.
‘I always thought Trincas was not cut out for jazz because pop music has always been the most popular here… but I was wrong. Trincas has been packed,’ says Willie
Instrumentals of popular jazz standards kickstart the afternoons, followed by an hour of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Audrey Hepburn. The sessions culminate in solos and songs requested by the crowd. “Trincas focuses on pop-jazz — it’s light and fun. We have matched it with our ambiance, food and drinks,” smiles Puri. The jazz afternoon blends in the nostalgia of Trincas — there’s good food, good music and good conversation all under one roof just like the good ol’ days.
“Whether it’s Soumajit doing something on keys, Aneesha singing Skyfall or Arya doing a drum solo, people go crazy for the music. Many people come into Trincas and have never heard or experienced live jazz. But even if they don’t know the language of the music, the quality is so fine that it keeps them engrossed and coming back for more,” says Puri.
Instrumentals of popular jazz standards kickstart the afternoons, followed by an hour of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Audrey Hepburn
Trincas believes that these afternoon jazz sessions are an introduction of the genre to Kolkatans. In the past, jazz has been a genre reserved for the ‘musically literate’ — you had to know and understand music to develop a taste for jazz. Pop-jazz, however, has a certain ebullience to it. You’ll find yourself on a roller-coaster ride following the crescendos and falsettos, struck by the jaunty melodies.
“We know that Kolkata loves these jazz afternoons because the night band, which is a pop band, constantly gets requests for jazz numbers,” beams Willie.
The jazz afternoon blends in the nostalgia of Trincas — good food, good music and good conversation all under one roof
Trincas is looking forward to extending the jazz sessions to Friday afternoons as well in the near future!
“These jazz afternoons are a good fit with what Trincas is doing as a whole. Everything that I’ve done at Trincas has been rooted in the past. I don’t want to mimic the past, I want to take the best bits and re-represent them. So that’s why jazz. I’m glad it’s working really well,” smiles Puri.