Chemistry 'n' all that jazz

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RIGHT VIBES Sandeep Chowta with Bunny Brunel and All Jazz Stars.
RIGHT VIBES Sandeep Chowta with Bunny Brunel and All Jazz Stars.

The Bunny Brunel and All Jazz Stars concert wowed fans of the city

Accustomed as we are to high decibel pre-event publicity blasts, the Bunny Brunel and All Jazz Stars concert was relatively low-key. It still managed to draw large numbers of ardent fans who were superbly rewarded.Grammy nominee Bunny Brunel, Grammy winner Frank Gambale, keyboardist Mitch Forman and drummer Virgil Donati mesmerised the crowd for two-and-a-half hours last week. It was a virtuoso performance all the way from Brunel's own compositions: "Touch" (dedicated to Sandeep Chowta who put the show together), "Slide" (that he composed with Chick Corea), the hugely popular "Ivanhoe" to the rhythmic flow of "Vlad".Few bass players can hold forth like Brunel does and with Gambale, he created a pure magic. Mitch Forman was all movement, his platinum ponytail flying as he danced and wove behind the keyboard. Drummer Virgil Donati sent the audience into raptures, hands a blur as the drumsticks flew around. His eyes closed, he seemed caught in a fervent urge as he held an incredible beat.

Babuji, no less

The legends conferred a rare honour on Chowta, performing a just-recorded song from his new album. Vocalist Sonu (a reject from one of the Pop Stars contests and has since been training with Chowta) was impressive. To the utter shock of the audience, they went on to do a rendition of the raunchy item number "Babuji" (of the Yana Gupta fame). Except for Sonu' singing, it wasn't the same song after a point. As Gambale said later: "We did it our own way". Post-concert, the evening only got better as the musicians autographed CDs and posed for pictures with fans who didn't seem to get enough of them.MetroPlus caught up with the band relaxing by the poolside at the Chancery Pavilion. The Jazz Stars are flirtatious, bowled over as they are by the pleasant climate of Bangalore. "It feels like Southern California!"Excerpts from a freewheeling interview:Gambale is the true temperamental artiste. "Bunny called me up back in L.A. and asked me for a recording of Sandeep's music. I heard the most beautiful ambient music and enjoyed playing it. That led to this concert tour. Coincidentally, by pure chance, I had played with L. Subramaniam at a corporate gig in Palm Springs. That's when I got a taste of the sensibility of Indian people; they are wonderfully genteel. With Sandy, it's a higher experience". Brunel is fond of jokes and yes, has the French penchant for immoderate compliments. "I have been asked to perform in India earlier but the terms were never right. I compose, produce and arrange music, so I don't have to perform if the money is not good. With Sandeep of course, it's very different. Sandeep and I are very compatible. "My first experience of playing with Indian musicians was in 1974 when I played with a sitar player and a table player in Paris. I was very taken up with Ali Akbar Khan's sarod."With the internet, my music is within reach of people in places I have never even heard of. They can just order it from and from iTunes too. I am not afraid of losing money from free downloads. People who download music from the Net are only interested in pop; if they are true lovers of music, they will buy the album to appreciate the nuances of the music." Donati is a curly haired and blue-eyed wizard who rocks audiences. "My father was a keyboard player and I had a good musical education. Drumming was my main passion, I dropped the vocal early on but kept up with the piano and I am glad I did so. I love composing and my early training helps me do so. "Moving from Australia to the U.S. 10 years ago, I had to start again from scratch. Now I play with the Australian rock band Southern Sons and keep doing progressive music (with Derek Sherinian's L.A. prog metal group Planet X), besides my solo shows and clinics. You have got to maintain flexibility as a musician so you don't end up out of work if a band breaks up." Mitch Forman is an unlikely New Yorker; he hates to talk about his work. "My music does all my talking."It certainly does; he is a bundle of energy as he dances behind the keyboard. Hard as it is believe it, he says he is very serious and still while playing the piano. "This is my second visit to India. About 15 years ago, I performed in Chennai. I have cut down on my tours to spend time with my family. I have two young kids and my wife has a tough job as the principal of an inner city school. But I am glad I came this time, it's been wonderful." For Bangalore boy Sandeep Chowta, it is a dream come true to make music with Brunel and the others. "This is the high point of my life," he exults.Chowta has gone places right from the time he cut his very album with his group Pulse in Bangalore. Award-winning soundtracks for films like Mast, Satya and Company and item numbers have been his forte - "Babuji", "Kambaqt ishq" and "Laila, Laila".For the past year though, he's put aside the commercial Bollywood masala to pursue his innermost dream. Wangling an invitation to Brunel's studio, he stunned him by playing Brunel's own music to perfection. That sparked off an association that led to Chowta composing music for Brunel. The Sandeep Chowta Project that is a three-city tour of Bunny Brunel and the Jazz All Stars was a happy progression.SANDHYA MENDONCA




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