2002 Jazz Yatra Festival
Jazz is arguably the most argumentative form of music (even has diminished and argumented chords!). So at the outset let me present my side of the argument. Jazz is musical improvisation, right? Indian classical music is improvisation, still right? Granted Indian music does not have the harmonies of the west. But the keyword here is improvisation and not harmony, absolutely right? Indian classical music has been around for more than two thousand years. The Americans discovered Jazz less than a hundred years ago. Right then, now that we have established India as the birth place of Jazz lets head for the Jazz Yatra.
Surfacing on day one are the cats (Kangaroos?) from down under. Jamie Oehlers Quintet and the Perth Jazz Orchestra. Jamie opens. Good band. Great Jazz Jamie and the boys are jammin' alright. On to act two which is...ahem, an extended remix of act one. Jamie and the boys brought their buddies along to form the Perth Jazz Orchestra! It's always a thrill hearing the powerful and dynamic sounds of a big band. Reminds me about what teamwork is all about. Each and every member looked really happy to be a small part of the big picture. Standing out and upfront with the big band was vocalist Mark Underwood with a rich and velvety voice that reached out and caressed the audience. Very enjoyable evening. Good start for Jazz Yatra. Met up with lots of old and new friends all sharing a common love for music being created live. Day one was the Aussies night out. Pity we didn't get to hear their musical instrument called didgeridoo or didgerididnt or something.
Day two features Jazz Yatra's trump card. Trumpet player Dave Douglas from the U.S. of A. Voted as worlds best trumpet player by readers of Downbeat magazine and Archie comics. Satya led by Dave settles down on stage, I mean sits down on stage. Just then heaven walks past me in her tiniest black number. Tosses her tresses and glances in my direction. Music begins. Band hasn't begun. Chaos. Band begins. Wrench myself back to earth. Satya's seated in a neat semi circle. Myra cross legged on harmonium. Dave cross eyed on trumpet. Samir and Sanghamitra cross country on tabla and tanpura respectively. Dave looks like a snake charmer about to charm a snake right out of Samirs tabla. Band's playing. Music flows. Sounds charming indeed. I notice a lot of snakes in the audience slowly rise and slither towards the canteen hip flasks in hand. Crowd's getting restless, collective murmurs, customary grunts and some oinks of disapproval about the raags being given to us by Satya...nass. Rang Bhavan is under threat of being converted into a huge open air Just not Jazz by the bay! Mr. Compere comes up and requests the crowds to stop disturbing the performers. I'm tempted to yell back, 'the performers are disturbing us.' The trumpet player may be hot but it's the batatawadas that are smokin' right now. So I get up and head for the snakes, I mean snacks, at the canteen located next to the loo! And I'm not talking about the loo as in the Louies wife. Okay I'm back. I don't quit so easily. And guess what? Half the band is joined by three other musicians to form Myra Melfords 'Same River Twice'! I'm slowly beginning to understand the mathematics of music. Things are getting interesting at Jazz Yatra. The river flows. This band is wild. Making avant-garde efforts to push back the boundaries of Jazz. Pianist Myra's brilliant and definitely an inspiring band leader. Dave is beginning to sound like he has earned his votes. The Jap chap playing bass seems to be getting more out of his headless and fretless bass.