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All about that jazz

CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ

Q. Your upcoming show in Goa will see you performing with Braz Gonsalves and Karl Peters again.

It’s so amazing to be getting together with Karl and Braz in Goa. I am really looking forward to the concert.

Q. What is your take on the present love for jazz among the Goan audience today?

The love for jazz is growing in Goa, but there is a need for more jazz concerts to happen and I am really looking forward to our jazz concert with Braz, Karl and Lester. Actually it’s very easy for jazz to be popular in Goa as Goans are very musical as a race. There is so much love for music in Goa and I am confident that jazz will have a place there and become a popular idiom.

Q. Why is it that jazz still has a niche audience today?

Jazz will never be mainstream popular music. This is because the music is sophisticated, very involved, complex at times, and predominantly improvised. And it demands total involvement on the part of the listeners. It’s not passive listening. Once that synergy is created, jazz becomes most enjoyable. Popular music on the other hand is easy listening. It is simple, very melodic with danceable rhythms and singable lyrics. And this is a patented combination for mass popularity and adulation. It could run parallel if jazz is compromised. But then jazz would lose its sheen and identity. But as long as there are discerning listeners of jazz around (and there are plenty!), jazz will go on delighting jazz lovers all across the globe.

Q. You’ve often credited meeting music director R D Burman and jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie as two life-changing experiences. Are there any other such instances?

Meeting Dizzy and performing  with  him has strengthened my resolve  to carry on pushing jazz in our country, and guiding aspiring young musicians to achieve their goals as jazz musicians and make a mark among discerning listeners across the globe. It is divine intervention that made it possible for me to meet Dizzy. As for RD Burman, meeting him and eventually coming to Bombay was a turning point in my life. There was one more historical event that changed my life. In 1980, I was asked to form an indo jazz fusion band and go on a tour of Europe. Here, I was introduced to Indian classical music and learned to devise ways to combine jazz with Indian classical music. It was a revelation for me and today my main focus in music is fusion. I am so happy that more people are listening and enjoying jazz fusion.

Q. Jazz, you have said is sometimes present in a tune, but it takes an educated ear to spot this.

In a sense you could say that. But the tune factor is not the defining factor. It is just there for identifying a particular piece and for musicians to do a jazz rendition of it by employing jazz improvisation based on the harmonic progression of the melody. A jazz interpretation ideally consists of 10 per cent melody and 90 per cent improvisation.

Q. While one needs to move with the times in any form of art, is there anything about the jazz of the old that you wish had still remained?

In the whole process of evolving, jazz has maintained a mix of old and new. That’s the nerve centre. As Duke Ellington said: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”.

Q. You’re previously stated that one can discover more about the same piece of music that you may have played 100 times. Could you elaborate?

That is because jazz is never the same way twice, as it is largely based on improvisation, and it is all about capturing that moment in time and being influenced by your state of mind. And there can be several factors that shape the music as it progresses. Hence every time you play the same piece, it will be different. And that is the beauty and magic of jazz.

Q. Who are the Indian jazz musicians today that you believe will take jazz a long way in the country?

Only the serious, hardworking, dedicated young musicians of today will carry the jazz legacy forward. My son Gino Banks, Sheldon D’silva, Mohini Dey, Rhythm Shaw, Anurag Naidu, Harmeet Manseta, Sonia Saigal, Vasundhara, Andrew Kanga, Rhys D’souza, and Jarryd Rodrigues, are among the few that I can remember. There are more in other parts of India.

Q. Tell us about your tryst with films.

It’s a long story but I thank R D Burman for giving me the opportunity to play film music, thereby allowing me to do my own jazz take on those song arrangements. Over the years, I have done about 30 films. But my commitment to jazz was too strong to go the whole hog with film music. As they say, to each his own!

Q. You are also an avid artist. Can we perhaps see art exhibitions by you sometime in the near future?

Yes, definitely. I hope to have an exhibition of my paintings very soon. Painting is my second passion. I have over 50 paintings that need to be exhibited, God willing!

Q. What are some of the projects that you are currently working on?

I am working on a jazz lounge vocal album, a second solo piano, an album on my exclusive arrangements of jazz standards, a Sufi jazz album with Pooja Gaitonde, a piano trio album of original compositions, besides playing concerts all over India and a few abroad. My plate is full and I like to keep busy. It’s the only way, right?

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