The Maarten Visser Trio showcased their musical skill and enthusiasm

The turn-out at the Alliance Française was small, far too small to do justice to the music that was on offer. Especially considering that of the three musicians on stage, Suresh Bhaskara on drums, played with a bandaged finger on his right hand and, in his enthusiasm to give us his all regardless of his injury, he used his right hand much too vigorously and had his dressing come off, an accident that forced the band to terminate its concert prematurely.

But the Maarten Visser Trio, comprising Visser on tenor and soprano saxophones, Holger Jetter on electric violin, and Bhaskara, did get enough time to showcase its musical skill and enthusiasm, not to mention Visser's talent as a composer. But while the concert was still meaty enough for us listeners, the early end prevented the trio from playing through what was actually a full suite of compositions. That was one regret we came away with, and I'm sure the other regret we all shared was that there were so few of us to share the goodies on offer.

In fact, so thin was the audience that even the functionaries of the Alliance did something of a bunk, with the result that at the end when it came to garlanding the musicians the dedicated office assistant had nobody available to do the honours and had to ask this reviewer to step into the breach, a task I undertook with some regret at having to stand in the limelight.

Nearly seven years ago in these columns I remarked that Visser, Dutch-born but a long-time resident of Chennai, sounds a bit thin on soprano sax in contrast to his richer sound on tenor sax. Maybe he's been working on it in the intervening years, or the more intimate setting of the small audience being close to the stage made the difference. But either way his soprano sax on this occasion rang out as rich and full-bodied as the tenor. I'd also said last time that he's more at home playing his own avant-garde music than mainstream jazz standards. On this occasion there was no reason for him to feel discomfited, since all the music his trio was playing was his own compositions.

The trio played seven numbers, on two of which, the opener “Dance, Diva, Dance” and the third piece “Trees”, Visser alternated between the soprano and tenor saxes, exclusively wielding the tenor on the other five. Visser's compositions, although experimental in musical form (especially “Twelve Tone Mode”), were quite catchy when they got under way after sometimes longish intros that were more slow and exploratory-sounding. Visser's solos sounded particularly great as we were all sitting so close to him.

Jetter, who's a German expatriate living in Auroville for nearly two decades, was quite inventive in taking solo improvisations and in technique on violin. For example, he frequently plucked the strings with his fingers instead of bowing them, and since he did this a lot especially in the lower register, he managed to make his instrument sound like a double bass, whose absence would otherwise have been felt on stage particularly when Visser played the tenor sax. When a lady in the audience asked him what he called his instrument, he replied “I don't know. I had it (custom-) made in the U.S. a couple of years ago” and went on to say that its register is somewhere between those of the cello and the viola (hence well below that of the violin). But with its seven strings and its small size it was quite capable of moving into the violin register when he needed to get there, and on this occasion as before in the past it's been described in the bill as a violin.

When he used his violin like a double bass his music had a strong rhythmic feel, and his solos were a good foil to those of Visser. Bhaskara is also from Auroville and he's French, though evidently ethnic Indian. His drumming was fluent and for the most part not too loud despite the force he was using in disregard of his injured finger. I couldn't say it suffered from any disability, although of course it was the reason why this otherwise enjoyable concert was cut short.