The new jazz order

Maarten Visser performing at The Madras Jazz Festival in Chennai

Maarten Visser performing at The Madras Jazz Festival in Chennai   | Photo Credit: K.V. Srinivasan


Artistes at the seventh edition of the Madras Jazz Festival showed how the genre lends itself to contemporary styles

Being on the trail of jazz events in Chennai took me to the doorstep of the 7th edition of the Madras Jazz Festival. Surrounded by fellow jazz enthusiasts left me thrumming with excitement. Organised by Exodus, the show featured diverse artistes headlined by the Brian Molley Quartet, who recently arranged the score for Scott Bradley cartoon ‘Mouse For Sale’, the Warner Brothers Tom and Jerry cartoon. These artistes showcased different styles by fusing jazz with other genres.

The soulful voice of Sanaea Bubber, accompanied by her jazz collective made for a promising start and was indeed an appetiser for what was to follow.

“It’s a little amusing that in a span of five years I went from not liking the genre to wanting to make a career of it. At the stage that I am right now, Jazz would translate into tapping my own potential in terms of musicianship, composing and exploring the sub-genres of jazz such as Latin-Jazz and Acid-Jazz,” said Bubber, who studied at the KM Conservatory.

Sanaea Bubber Jazz Collective performing at the Madras Jazz Festival in Chennai

Sanaea Bubber Jazz Collective performing at the Madras Jazz Festival in Chennai   | Photo Credit: K.V. Srinivasan

The Sanaea Bubber Jazz Collective treated us to a stunning rendition of ‘Moonlight in Vermont’, which was originally sung by Margaret Whiting and popularised by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Setting the tone for the performance, Sanaea moved on to a wondrous version of the evergreen hit ‘Besame Mucho,’ before she sultrily crooned ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ sashying across the stage. Feeding on the energy of the rapt audience, the collective — Wesley Cripus on the saxophone, Ashwin Iyer on the piano, Deepak Garg on the drums and Prashanth Venkat on the bass — also performed a powerful version of the cult classic ‘Brazil’ while giving it their own twist.

“Freedom lies in the expression of ideas in sound. The importance of finding your voice and to dig deep into who you are in this huge ocean of music make each of us unique,” said Maarten Visser, a Dutch saxophonist, who performed alongside Holger Jetter, who played the electric double mass to complement Visser’s saxophones. As the second act took to the stage, I marvelled at how far jazz has come especially going by this unconventional setlist.

Visser is a self-proclaimed experimentalist and doesn’t believe in containing things in boxes that would stifle creativity. Hence his performance was a blend of styles and genres. The key feature being unpredictability. One did not know exactly what to expect with each note and that was what made the performance unique. The audience was also exposed to many original compositions that aimed to break the norm associated with jazz.

“I always try to engage the audience and take them on a journey with us. This might be through high energy jazz or subtle ballads, but whatever we play, we want the audience to be a part of it and enjoy the experience,” said Brian Molley, who lived up to his words.

The final act of the night was magical. Coming all the way from Scotland, the Brian Molley Quartet that has made appearances with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and London’s West End on Broadway, expectations were certainly high. And they did not disappoint at all.

The opening notes of ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ from Disney’s Pinnochio evoked emotions in the audience, who were gripped by nostalgia.

‘Vashudeva’s Initiation’ was a favourite of the audience from the act. Infused with Tamil folk notes that Molley had taken a shine to, this piece was a beautiful fusion of cultures, once again showing how artistes are looking beyond the traditional form of jazz.

Brian Molley at the Madras Jazz Festival held recently

Brian Molley at the Madras Jazz Festival held recently   | Photo Credit: K_V_Srinivasan

The Quartet that consisted of Brian Molley on the tenor saxophone, Tom Gibbs on the piano, Brodie Jarvie on the double bass and Stuart Brown on the drums, brought a bit of Scotland with them as they performed ‘Ae Fond Kiss’, a Scottish classic that had the audience moving to the music. Molley’s compositions were distinct — ‘Bletchly” was a soothing piece, ‘Lullaby Bye’ speaks for itself and ‘Ramal Dabke’ brought up the end to a night of jazz. Among these were also songs the Quartet performed for an audience for the first time ever.

The show left jazz enthusiasts yearning for more of the genre that is often pushed behind doors and not often considered mainstream.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 11:34:51 AM |

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