Jazz Mine, Mumbai 2002
Hopefully, the Indian Jazz Yatra will set a precedent. From Friday to Sunday, an array of bands hopped on to the Rang Bhavan stage, and treated the crowd to some enjoyable jazz. It was the first time that an all-Indian yatra was held, and going by its sheer purpose and spirit, it was a success.
So far, all the Jazz Yatras have basically provided a platform for foreign artistes. In each festival, only a handful of Indians have been featured. As such, the decision to have a Jazz Yatra specially for Indian musicians was truly significant. If such events are held regularly, it will do a world of good for Indian jazz.
The festival had some loopholes, no doubt. Far too many acts were lined up on the opening day, and since most of them were familiar faces from Mumbai, the crowd didnt get anything new that day.
Secondly, only two bands made prominent use of saxophones and trumpets the Louis Banks Quartet featured Carl Clements on saxophone and Bangalores Gerard Machado Network had Frank Dubier on trumpet, saxophone, flugelhorn and flute. By and large, one missed those instruments. Finally, thanks to the 10 pm deadline, most bands were allotted only 45 minutes which is too short for a heavily-improvising jazz outfit.
The drawbacks apart, there was some good music. The festival brought together some wonderful guitarists like Kolkatas bebop master Carlton Kitto (who plays for the Kitto Hilt Organisation), Bangalores versatile Gerard Machado (of the Gerard Machado Network), Chennais crisp Donan Murray (from the Tommy Menezes Quintet), Delhis Maxi Peters (from the Steve Siqueira Quartet) and Mumbai lads Dhruv Ghanekar (of Usual Suspects) and Chandresh Kudwa (the brilliant guy from Nexus who was sadly underplayed here). In fact, the abundance of good guitarists became evident when Louis Banks called three of them to play the standard Autumn Leaves, along with Delhis smooth bassist Brennon Denfer, in the concluding days jam session.
The Yatra also featured some marvellous vocalists. While some sang ballads for boyfriends, others sang the blues for ex-husbands. Sonia Saigal of the Kitto Hilt Organisation wowed the crowd with George Gershwins Summertime and the Hoagy Carmichael-Ned Washington number The Nearness Of You.
Radha Thomas, who accompanied the Gerard Machado Network, was impressive on Cole Porters Youd Be So Nice To Come Home To, the Antonio Carlos Jobim-Vinicius De Moraes number Agua De Beber and Thelonious Monks Round Midnight (which ran into a controversy when the legendary Miles Davis said he also had something to do with that piece).
Other vocal contributions came from Brenda Menezes (who sang with the Tommy Menezes Quintet), Lorella Jacinto (who began the festival with some Bessie Smith blues), Samantha Edwards (whose scat on Night And Day was a treat) and Steve Siqueira (who did a neat job on Nature Boy).
The Yatra also featured some promising youngsters like keyboardist Harmeet Manseta, pianist-keyboardist Sangeet Haldipur, bassist Sheldon DSilva, drummers Kurt Peters and Gino Banks, percussionist Shadab Hussain Bhartiya and synthesiser player Samrat B.
For variety, there was an action-packed drum battle between Sivamani, Bondo and Ranjit Barot. They all played some good solos, but if theyd gone on for five more minutes when they played together, many ears would have been blasted. The Stop-Gaps Ensemble made a short appearance, doing Duke Ellington numbers.
The music was a balanced mix of originals (mainly by Usual Suspects and the Tommy Menezes Quintet) and popular jazz numbers like Antonio Carlos Jobims A Girl From Ipanema (by the Louis Banks Quartet), Dizzy Gillespies A Night In Tunisia (by Gerard Machado Network), Miles Daviss All Blues (Machado Network again) and Weather Reports Teen Town (by Nexus).
On all days, the crowd was never jam-packed, but fairly large. But there were many dedicated listeners, who often asked for more. Surely, most visitors seemed to enjoy the music. That wasnt surprising, of course. Jazz has its own beauty and charm.