The world comes together

Ashlin Bangera
Wednesday, 27 November 2019

We speak with the artists who are a part of the line-up of Shisha Jazz Cafe’s International Jazz Festival starting from Thursday

An instrument calls or responds to another instrument in the band...that’s the nature of jazz music. Rhythmic in nature, jazz features ‘call and response’ patterns, making it a perfect medium for musicians to express their creative liberties. This quality will be in evidence at the three day International Jazz Festival at Shisha Jazz Cafe. With a splendid line-up of bands like The Matrix Trio, Macha Gharibian Trio, The Great Harry Hillman, Dainius Pulauskas Group, Dock In Absolute and Monoswezi, Pune is surely in for a treat. 

Naysayers might dismiss the genre as “complicated” but practitioners ask you to take it slow and savour a variety of sounds and influences.

My dad was a jazz artist before I was born. So I grew up listening to it, understanding it and feeling it. This journey has been a fantastic roller-coaster ride and my dad has been my biggest inspiration. Every time I play with my dad, it is a very special feeling,” says Gino Banks.

The Matrix Trio comprises Louis Banks on the keyboard, Gino on drums and Sheldon D’Souza on bass. The band plays original composition of Louis along with a few modern incarnations of popular jazz songs.

Speaking about the jazz audience in India, Gino says, “Jazz has been popularised by the media. Everything is available online. People are coming back to its original roots. As a matter of fact, youngsters are more into jazz now than ever.”

When asked how should one learn to appreciate the true beauty of jazz, he replies “For people who want to get into jazz or understand it better, I would recommend them to listen to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blues. It’s the perfect starting point to understand jazz.”

According to Gino, jazz is a storytelling process which takes the audience on a journey filled with various emotions. “We create a dynamic variety in our music which allows us to reach out to various groups. On the day of the event, we come to the stage with a basic blueprint of the set we will play. However, the actuals of the blueprint differ every time. The audience, the vibe in the room are but a few things that make us improvise our songs. It’s like life, it’s different every time,” Gino adds. 

I started out by improvising classical music on my piano. It was my father who recommended that I attend jazz classes. So at 15, I started jazz classes in Luxembourg as a pianist,” says Jean-Philippe Koch. 

The Docs In Absolute band comprises David Kintziger on the bass, Nathan Wong on drums and Koch playing the piano. These young and extremely talented musicians add their unique flavour to the genre. 

Speaking about the band’s performance at the Shisha Jazz Cafe, Koch said, “This is our very first performance in India, so we are really excited to see how the audience reacts to it. We love playing in different cultures and understanding the audience.”

Docs In Absolute will be playing several songs from its new album Unlikely. “If someone wants to understand jazz, it’s easier if they listen to a fusion of jazz and any contemporary genre. It could be jazz mixed with rock or jazz blended with Western classical music. Listening to the original form may be difficult for newer audiences,” he suggested. 

The band also has developed the same approach for its performances. “Our music is jazz mixed with classical influence. We also add a bit of rock and melody to our sets. As artists, we depend on audience reactions. It goes a long way for us to understand the crowd and create a sort of artist-audience combo,” he says.

Hallvard Godal was introduced to jazz when he was 16, by his friends and family. The Monoswezi band focuses on a fusion between Scandinavian and African music. It brings together musicians from Mozambique, Norway, Sweden and Zimbabwe. The name of the band is also based on the initial letters of the nationalities of its members. 

Describing his experience in India, Godal said, “This is our third time to India, and the audience has been great! I fondly remember our first performance. I was curious to find out reactions to the band from Norway, playing music from Zimbabwe for an audience in India. But the response was very positive, so I guess as long as the music is nice, it doesn’t matter where it comes from or who plays it.” 

The band line up features Hope Masike and Calu Tsemane on vocals and percussion, Erik Nylander on drums and percussion, Godal on the saxophone, clarinet and mellotron with Putte Johander on bass. 

People who want to appreciate the true beauty of jazz should invest time in listening to it. “A lot of jazz is developing with more layers and at a slower speed than pop music, or Western classical music, so it might need some time to appreciate all the beauty in it,” says the musician.

“We just recorded a new album in September, so we are going to play some new material from it. I will also be bringing my Mellotron keyboard with me this time,” he adds.

The Macha Gharibian Trio band will be performing with Dré Pallemaerts on drums and David Potaux Razel on electric guitar. Macha Gharibian is the pianist, singer and composer. She is an Armenian and English singer. 

“People probably don’t know the Armenian language, nor its music, so I am mixing my Armenian roots with other musical influences and jazz. The three of us are mixing our influences in this project, with modern taste and a special appreciation for modern sounds. I hope the audience will be curious about this music,” says Gharibian. 

About her trip to India, the singer-music composer says, “It is my first trip to India, I am very curious to discover this big country. I have no idea what kind of jazz people are listening to, or what are their tastes in terms of this genre. Of course, the big tradition of Carnatic classical music, Hindustani classical music, Konokol are the things that reached us in Europe. So we know that people have grown with this culture. ”

The Macha Trio will be playing songs from their new album that will come out in January next year. Chris Jennings on double bass, who is part of the trio, will not be part of the performance in Pune. Instead David Potaux Razel will be playing the guitar with Gharibian. “I asked David who I have played with for almost eight years to come with me. He has developed a whole set of pedal effects that makes the music sound very special.”

Gharibian’s tip to cherish Jazz? “Focusing on one instrument (drums, piano or guitar) and listening to its own special tune is a great thing. Like food, forest, walking, and other pleasures, it is something you can do on your own or share. That’s the beauty of music!”

The post-jazz quartet, The Great Harry Hillman, met on their first day at the university  and the band was formed soon after. The Switzerland-based group has been together for 11 years now.  

“We are a democratic band and we try to find a common ground between all our members to arrive on our desired set. We live in different countries, so we coordinate with each other to make time for rehearsals,” said David Koch. The Great Harry Hillman features Nils Fisher on the clarinette-bass, Koch on the guitar, Samuel Huwyler playing the bass and Dominik Mahnig on batterie. The jazz band held its first concert in India on November 22. 

“It was a great experience. We played some hit songs and some hardcore fans got really into it. It was an experimental set and it was well received by the crowds,” said Koch. 

Speaking about the jazz audience in India, the musician said, “Jazz as a genre isn’t as popular in India and there are very few dedicated shows for the cause. So every time there is a jazz show, people enjoy it to its fullest. ”

The band does not follow any specific set, rather, they depend more on their improvisation. “Once we have composed the music, we have several rehearsing sessions that last for a few days. The real magic happens when we play it on stage, that’s when the music really develops,” he says. 

The name of the group is based on American athlete, Harry Hillman who won three gold medals at the 1904 Olympics. The band offers a fusion between jazz, rock and creative music that brings out the best in the group. 

“Jazz is a special genre of music. You can do several rehearsals with other genres of music and it will remain the same. But with jazz, the feeling is ‘in the moment’. That’s why improv is such a common aspect in jazz. Every audience we play for is completely different. Our only expectation from our audience is that they should be open to jazz and leave their personal opinions aside. People should have the patience to listen and understand before coming to any conclusion,” adds Koch.

Dainius Pulauskas began his journey by playing classical piano. However, his interest in improvisation led him to the jazz universe, which allowed him boundless freedom and self expression. After playing with local bands in the ’80s, Dainius formed Dainius Pulauskas Group in 1996, with whom he plays till date.

“This tour is our band’s third time in India. Every festival or a jazz club we played across the country, as well as here, in Pune, has always been a wonderful experience. People who came to see us seemed to be musically educated. As an artist, it’s the biggest pleasure to perform for someone who can understand music and appreciate its unique forms of creativity.”

The band features Pulauskas on the keyboards, Valerijus Ramoska blowing trumpet and flugelhorn, Liutauras Janusaitis on the tenor sax, Domas Aleksa on bass and Augustas Baronas rocks the drums. 

“When I write, I usually think of how I could use the instruments in the most creative way possible, as well as letting the band members to come up with their own ideas. Having any expectations makes things a bit more complicated, so we try to treat all our audiences equally and concentrate on one goal — to deliver a musical story through the journey of sounds,” adds Pulauskas. 

The band is one of the leading Lithuanian jazz groups and has earned international recognition for the same. Its mixture of melody and unique texture with a pinch of the unexpected makes this band a masterpiece. It has often been called one of the most interesting fusion end composers in the European Jazz segment. 

What’s in store for audiences at the jazz fest? “This time we have prepared a dynamic set of colourful and eclectic compositions — some of which have unusual structures with a designated space for each performer to present their own personalities and individual style. The band will juggle through composed episodes with less strict experimental improvisations,” he says.    

Shisha Jazz Cafe at ABC Farms, Koregaon Park Annexe is hosting its annual three day International Jazz Festival from November 28 to 30. The first band will perform at 6.45 pm and the second performance will start at 8.30 pm

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