Radha Thomas: Blues, classical and all that’s jazz!


17 September, 2012, HindustanTimes.com

She has performed with most of India’s leading jazz musicians and has three albums to her credit. Radha Thomas’ latest album, I Only Have Eyes For You, is her fourth. The album features a mix of jazz, bebop, hip hop, blues with Indian classical overtones.

Thomas, who has performed in London, many cities across the USA, France, Poland, Germany the Far East and of course all over India, lives and divides her time between music and writing.

Radha Thomas leads the band UNK and its members include album collaborator Aman Mahajan (piano), Matt Littlewood (saxophone), Mishko M’Ba (bass), Ramjee Chandran (guitar) and Suresh Bascara (drums).

Advance releases of the album have reportedly garnered high praise from world famous musicians that Thomas has performed with in New York. These include the likes of singer Lucky Ali and Dubai-based musician Red.

More about UNK
Most of the members are internationally experienced recording artists but this is the first album where they have recorded together as a band. Each of UNK’s musicians bring a unique perspective to the music and collectively, their sound is refreshing, contemporary and untypical. Radha Thomas and UNK will take the album on the road and are scheduled to perform in various locations in September to launch the album.

Radha Thomas

Radha Thomas (vocals)
Thomas began headlining as a singer while still in her teens in rock n’ roll band Human Bondage, which was India’s most popular band in the late 70s. She soon developed a strong taste for jazz, her favourite kind of music, and began combining the tonal complexities of jazz with the rhythmic nuances of Indian classical music.

Radha Thomas (then Radha Shottam) represented India at European jazz festivals and made her way to New York, the home of jazz, where she lived and performed for almost 20 years with such musicians as John Scofield, Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, John Faddis, Alex Blake, David Liebman, John Abercrombie, Ryo Kawasaki, Joe Farrell and many others in some of NYC’s most famous jazz clubs including Sweet Basil, The Bottom Line, Alice Tully Hall and more.

Her Indian classical vocal training came first from Kumar Gandharva in New Delhi at the Gandharva Maha Vidyalaya, and subsequently with Ustad Farid Ud Din Dagar of the famed Dagar Brothers in the dying art of Drupad singing. She continues to bring these Indian influences into her singing and in fact is one of the few Indian vocalists who can bridge the gap between Indian classical music and jazz.

Aman Mahajan (piano)
Mahajan has worked with musicians from all over the world in a plethora of musical idioms. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music (Boston), Aman is widely influenced by jazz, blues, electronic music and folk music from Africa, India and the American continents.

Matt Littlewood (saxophone)
Littlewood is originally from UK and has been living in India for the last 13 years. Saxophonist, pianist and composer he has been active on the Indian jazz scene over the last 6 years and has played with numerous groups and ensembles, and has performed at all the major festivals and venues in India. He also leads his own group that features his own compositions and arrangements.

Mishko M’Ba (bass)
M’Ba is among the cream of French bassists, having worked with renowned Artists such as Raul de Souza, Lucky Ali, Kaled and Didier Lockwood. He has an exciting, intensely dynamic style, contributing melodic and rhythmic structures which are the very heartbeat of the Pondicherry-based band Emergence. He studied western classical music at Toulouse and focused later on jazz and rock. As an in-demand bass player who really makes his instrument sing, he has toured in USA, Europe and Asia with various bands of different musical styles for many years. Mishko is permanent member of the French band from Réunion island: Ziskakan, and the Paris ensemble Elexir with Raoul de Souza. He lives partly in Réunion in France and in Pondicherry.

Suresh Bascara (drums)
Bascara from France, studied the drums and percussion for over 10 years in Paris. In 1996 he was awarded a scholarship to study the tabla in Kolkata with Pandit Shankar Ghosh. He now lives and teaches in Auroville, and has participated in countless jazz, fusion and world music groups all over India. In 2006 he performed-with the trio Three Raags in Burma, as well as the jazz festival of Kolkata, which also featured saxophonist Kenny Garret and other jazz stars. A CD was also recently released by the group, titled Strange Fruits.

Ramjee Chandran (guitar)
Chandran is a self-taught jazz musician. His style tends towards bebop, influenced principally by horn players. After an early stab at scat-singing – performing a decade ago with singer Radha Thomas and jazz guitarist Gerard Machado – he turned to playing the guitar. He has played jazz guitar for UNK since its inception a year ago. By day he is Editor-in-Chief and Managing Director of Explocity – one of India’s leading media / publishing houses with print and digital products across India, New York and Dubai

The UNK band: Radha Thomas (vocals), Aman Mahajan (keyboards), Ramjee Chandran (guitars), Matt Littlewood (saxophones), Mishko M’ba (bass), Suresh Bascara (drums)

1. CALL: Suresh Shottam, Radha Thomas
2. MENINA MOCA: Luiz Antonio, Radha Thomas
3. CONNECTIONS: Aman Mahajan, Radha Thomas
4. BLUESETTE: Toots Thielmans, Norman Gimbel
5. REFUGE: Aman Mahajan, Radha Thomas
6. ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE: Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner
7. I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU: Harry Warren, Al Dubin
8. WATERMELON MAN: Herbie Hancock, John Hendricks

Notes of Appreciation

  • Ron McClure, bassist for the famous American band Blood, Sweat and Tears said, “Provocative! Contempo to the max! You may have a hit on your hands?! Wow! (The album) sounds so good! Really inventive stuff, with a lot of expression.”
  • Indian pop star Lucky Ali commented, “Eyes is stylish and cool… : That’s what its about. It comes across as I listen to the tracks :.”
  • New York based crossover jazz Steve Gorn: “Radha – Eyes is great! Loved your voice and the arrangements.”
  • Recorded with her band, UNK: The Radha Thomas Ensemble, Eyes features an eclectic mix of jazz, bebop, hip-hop, blues, Indian classical music, rock and other influences