Whetting an appetite for jazz

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FRENCH FLAVOUR Tremendous trio
FRENCH FLAVOUR Tremendous trio

The Sylvain Luc Trio gave Bangalore 60 minutes of terrific music

I admit that my reaction when I arrived at the Leela Palace at 7.25 p.m. on March 20 was probably not typical, but I certainly was dismayed when I was told that the concert was not going to start at 7.30 p.m., but at 8 p.m.

An assortment of the Bangalore elite, or P3Ps if one wants to be less than kind, were standing around happily sipping Seagram 100 Pipers or other beverages and nibbling at short eats, so they were in no hurry to get their ears to work instead of their mouths. They probably agreed with the opinion of the Director of the Alliance Française, who told me: “First we drink. When we are drunk, it sounds better.”

In the event, the Sylvain Luc Trio (Luc on guitar, Jean-Marc Jafet on electric bass guitar, and Pascal Rey on drums) actually started performing at 8.30 and finished much too soon, in my opinion, after almost exactly an hour. I’d have happily sacrificed my Fanta and my snacks to have heard another hour of their music. Judging from the enthusiasm of the audience, they too wouldn’t have minded more music, even if it meant less food and drink. However, 60 minutes of (terrific) music was all that was on the menu, enough to whet one’s appetite, and we had to be satisfied with it.

The trio played six pieces, each thus getting a reasonably long workout of about 10 minutes. Most of the pieces were not named, but they were all probably original compositions of the trio (the first was composed by Jafet and was called “Bella Vista”).

They were in a variety of tempos, slow to brisk, and might all have been influenced by Basque music — Luc himself is Swiss-born but claims that Basque music is in his blood — although the trio’s style was very much mainstream jazz and not “world music”.

Although Luc took a somewhat dominant role in the solo improvisations, all three shared in this department. Jafet’s solos were fewer in number, generally shorter and not as ferocious as Luc’s. The last number had an extended solo by Rey. The one before that was notable in the improvisation of the instrumentation. Rey worked entirely with a piece of plastic bag throughout this piece, placing it on his chest and patting it with his hands, squeezing it and what-not, all the while taking Jafet’s place at the mike in front. His work was somewhat reminiscent of the early jazz pioneers who used an ordinary piece of laundry equipment, a washboard, as a percussion instrument.

Modern French jazz

Jafet meanwhile sat at the drum kit and satisfied himself with beating the drums gently with either his hands (for a short while) or felt-head drumsticks. It was on the last piece that Luc, during his long solo after those of Jafet and Rey, plucked his guitar in a higher and higher register, ending higher than a violin would go. Jafet matched him by playing notes on his bass guitar that would normally be in the range of Luc’s instrument. All in all, this was a satisfying illustration of what modern French jazz can do, and a good contribution to the Alliance’s “Semaine de la Francophonie” (Francophone week).





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