A fascinating aspect of jazz music is that is an overall umbrella under which various types of sounds flourish. Thus, jazz may incorporate the essence of classical music, folk music of various types, rhythms from diverse sources and the essential ingredient, the blues. A jazz festival is an ideal place to showcase some of these approaches to jazz; it makes for a rich spectrum of sounds and emotions.
The Jazz Festival at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai has become an annual tradition. Since the inaugural event in 2011, the festival has had a successful run each November. The Jazz Festival this year will be held from 24-26 November at the Tata Theatre, NCPA; its line-up boasts of bands from five countries. Between all these bands, several different approaches to the sound of jazz will be on show.
Typically, two bands will play each night from 7 pm onwards on each of the days. A unique finale has been planned for the event, with a Jazz Jam Session on 26 November. The latter will have participating musicians come together to create a totally improvised set of jazz. Jazz by nature is based on improvisation by the players involved and a jam session tends to bring out the skills of the individual artists, always within the framework of the overall sound of the band. The jam session trend was started back in the 1940s in New York in what were then called ‘cutting sessions’, in which a house band would play and visiting musicians were invited to take solos with the band, almost in a competitive spirit!
At the NCPA Jam Session, one should expect the participation of at least two saxophones, trumpets, several pianists (playing in turn), percussionists, drummers and bassists. They will be led by one of the musicians, who will regulate the sequence of the soloists and the tunes played during the Jam.
The bands performing at the festival are (1) The Latination from Kolkatta, (2) Worry Later from Austria, (3) Simona Molinari from Italy, (4) The Kevin Davy Quintet from the UK and (5) The Greg Banaszak Quintet from the US.
Latin jazz has been an integral part of the jazz idiom for the past six or seven decades, with the strong melodic and rhythmic influences of music from Cuba and South America incorporated into mainstream jazz. Jazz legends like Duke Ellington, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, Stan Getz and others have brought the Latin effect into mainstream jazz with compositions such as ‘Caravan’, ‘Manteca’ and ‘Desifinado’ becoming Latin jazz classics.
The Latination band from Kolkatta is led by pianist Pradyumna Singh (Paddy) Munot and features French artist Emmanuel on congas. It is a quintet and is perhaps the only band in India dedicated to the Latin sound in jazz. They have performed in several international jazz festivals and shows. They will open the festival with their band consisting of Munot on piano and keyboards supported by a bassist, a conga player, one playing timbales and a vocalist.
The Kevin Davy Quintet will have Davy playing trumpet and flugelhorn, a tenor saxophone, piano, bass and drums. The trumpet has been a leading and a significant part of jazz. Starting from King Oliver and Louis Armstrong in the 1920s, through Harry James, Buck Clayton in the 30s, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard and others, the history of jazz trumpet is rich in tradition. Kevin Davy, originally from the Caribbean and now residing in England explores the range of sounds from this tradition. He is particularly partial to the sound of Miles Davis (from his pre-electronic period). He is expected to play the mainstream sound of trumpet and flugelhorn.
After the Latin and mainstream bands on the opening night, the diversity of the jazz sound will be emphasised further on the second day of the festival. Two European bands are scheduled for Saturday, 25 November — Worry Later from Austria, and Simona Molinari and her band from Italy.
Worry Later consists of Oliver Kent (piano), Uli Langthaler (bass), Thomas Kugi (tenor saxophone), Daniel Nosig (trumpet) and Dusan Novakov (drums). The core band has been playing together for several years and has travelled extensively all over the world. Their sound promises to be melodic with powerful solos by the trumpet and saxophone. Their set will include originals such as Langthaler’s composition “Song” played in the complex 7/4 rhythm cycle to the old jazz standard “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” and plenty in between. From their moving spiritual experience in Bhutan, the band plays a composition called “Punakha“, written again by bassist Langthaler.
The great jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald would have turned 100 this year. Her influence on vocal jazz is huge. Italian vocalist Simona Molinari has been greatly influenced by this jazz diva. In her NCPA festival appearance, Molinari has chosen “Loving Ella” as her theme. In addition to singing the music associated with Ella, Simona will be narrating anecdotes and has planned some visuals to make a multi dimensional narrative of the Ella Fitzgerald phenomenon. Accompanying Simona Molinari’s band is Mauro Ottolini, a trombone player who has also arranged all the music to be played. Molinari describes Ottolini as “one of the most important musicians on the Italian jazz scene”.
The Greg Banaszak Quintet comprises the leader on alto saxophone, Christopher Anderson on slide trombone, Theron Brown on piano, Gianluca Liberatore on acoustic bass and Aron Nyiro on drums. This band will be playing mainstream acoustic jazz with a wide range of moods involved. They plan to play Victor Feldman’s composition “New Delhi“, compositions by Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Jackie McLean, Duke Ellington and others. Banaszak has also composed a tribute song, “Throne for Mr Soans” for the late Mumbai drummer Benny Soans, who was part of Banaszak’s band a couple of years ago in Mumbai for the NCPA concert Bebop and Beyond.
Theron Brown has an illustrious background; he played the part of a young Herbie Hancock in a biopic on Miles Davis (released last year). Chris Anderson has been part of Aretha Franklin’s band for some years.
Expect a high quality, tight jazz set from this band as indeed from the other groups at this edition of the International Jazz Festival at the NCPA. It promises a few happy surprises.
International Jazz Festival
From 24-26 November 2017
At the NCPA, Mumbai