Where are the trumpeters?

The same evening can have its highs and lows. While still in a daze after attending jazz pianist Chick Corea’s magnificent concert in the city, I checked into Facebook. What I read came as a bolt from the blue, trumpeter Roy Hargrove was no more. The man was a genius and was only 49 when he died on November 2.

For me, Hargrove was pretty much the future of the trumpet, which perhaps is my favourite jazz instrument besides the saxophone. There’s a reason why I have been so fascinated with this instrument. Back in 1984, I saw the great Woody Shaw at the Jazz Yatra in New Delhi. It was just the second jazz show I had attended, and this one blew my mind. Besides the trumpet, he played an assortment of conch shells. Several of those pieces performed by Shaw still linger in memory.

Later, I heard the recordings of Chuck Mangione, who played the flugelhorn, belonging to the same family. The tunes ‘Feels So Good’, ‘Children of Sanchez’ and ‘Memories Of Scirocco’ are regulars on my playlist. Maybe it’s the raw sound of the trumpet that appeals to me so much. Or maybe it’s the way trumpet players improvise. Maybe it’s the energy that emanates from the trumpet. Whatever, it is – there’s something classy about the trumpet.

My quest didn’t stop. Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan and Dizzy Gillespie became quick favourites. For a brief period, I was hooked on to Bix Beiderbecke, who played the similar cornet. Then Miles Davis entered my life.

Kind Of Blue, Sketches Of Spain, Birth Of The Cool and Bitches Brew were four albums by Davis that defined my jazz taste. Besides the trumpet-playing, it was also the compositions and how each band member contributed to the album. Other players like Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Randy Brecker, Arturo Sandoval and Hargrove followed. There have been few female trumpeters, and I’ve had the good fortune to hear the Dutch lady Saskia Laroo on her frequent Mumbai visits.

Through all this, I realised that the trumpet was used in India, though selectively. Military marches and wedding bands used them. Though I never saw him perform, Chic Chocolate was the pioneer in this country. I later heard Bosco Monsorate perform. In film music, George Fernandes performed with Shankar-Jaikishen and R.D. Burman. Later, Kishore Sodha did some great work in the movies.

What’s troubling is that there are very few young trumpeters in India today. Yes, places like the True School of Music in Mumbai have avenues. But overall, the local jazz scene is restricted to vocals, guitar, keyboards, jazz and drums and occasionally a saxophone. But then each generation has its preferences. For now, I’ll get back to listening to the Roy Hargrove Quintet.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 6:45:22 PM |

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