A helping hand, musically

Bangalore’s musicians came together for jazz legend Carlton Kittu with highly accomplished and occasionally inspired music

November 13, 2012 06:54 pm | Updated 06:59 pm IST

Musicians perform at the event.

Musicians perform at the event.

After Susheel Kurien’s film Finding Carlton: Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India was shown on October 15 in Bangalore (Metro Plus, October 25, 2012), a member of the audience had asked Kurien whether there was any chance of seeing and hearing Carlton Kitto, the Kolkata-based jazz guitarist whose story is one strand in the film, in Bangalore. In fact, as Kurien informed us, the film was shown again on the next two days at two other venues, at one of which Kitto himself performed after the film. But Kurien had also told us that Kitto had had a serious accident and badly needed spinal surgery, which he couldn’t afford.

Enter the Bangalore School of Music (BSM) as personified by its Director, Aruna Sunderlal; M.R. Jagadeesh, guitarist and jazz-fusion bandleader; and Carlton Braganza of Opus and his Gina Forever Foundation. After those later screenings of Kurien’s films, they decided to take up the cause of Kitto and see if something couldn’t be done for him.

As the result of their efforts, the community of Bangalore’s musicians came together on Saturday, at the Alliance Française in a massive show of support called Helping CarltonOver three hours of music, the bulk of it jazz, much of the time highly accomplished and occasionally inspired, gave the audience reason to think its money was well spent.

But since the musicians were giving their time and talent for a good cause, it was naturally not right that the bar be set too high for letting them get on to the stage. So it was that, for instance, the first group, a choir called Wishbone Factory, who sang four numbers, didn’t contribute a jazz performance although their songs were associated with jazz: from ‘In the Mood’ to ‘Mack the Knife’ everything was rendered as in the written score, there were no solo improvisations, and, in fact, the songs were largely sedately sung except for a bit of zing in ‘Mack the Knife’.

We had to wait till Traffic Jam came on to hear some authentic jazz. With Daniel Marcus on keyboard (set to various tones from acoustic piano to electric organ), Eric on guitar, Jeff on electric bass and Danny on drums behind her, Jessie’s powerful singing went through several lusty standards. She led off with Duke Ellington’s ‘Don’t Get Around Much Any More’ and followed with pop numbers all rendered with a jazz sensibility that shone through in her scat singing. Marcus’s and Eric’s solo improvisations were an able foil for her vocals.

Madhuri on vocals and M.R. Jagadeesh on guitar, with support from Wilbur Colaco on alto saxophone and clarinet, Joshua Lance on bass, and Imraan Jamal on drums, were another of the evening’s headline acts. They worked their way through three numbers, starting off with Ellington’s ‘I’m Beginning to See the Light’. Madhuri’s singing was a highlight of their performance, with Jagadeesh’s and Colaco’s virtuosity, especially on their solos, enhancing their work.

Carlton Braganza’s vocals with Karan Joseph on piano gave us five numbers, including the famous ‘Autumn Leaves’. Joseph’s piano was strong, in the tradition of the stride pianists of early jazz, and both of them put plenty of verve into their improvisations, as did S. Raman with his tenor saxophone supporting them. An announcement had already informed us of a surprise participant in the shape of a Nepali flautist called Sunil Parihar. When he came on, he was ably supported by Niranjan Burke on the guitar as he played an alaap and then a tune called ‘Wild Bird’ in Nepali. Besides Burke, piano, bass, and drums accompanied Parihar while he and Burke took solo improvisations. Finally, Jagadeesh and Madhuri returned with their band for three more numbers, this time augmented by Raman, Braganza, Joseph and Jessie. They gave us rousing renditions of Wayne Shorter’s ‘Footprints’, Wes Montgomery’s ‘Road Song’ and the Gershwin classic ‘Summertime’, on which the theme was rendered by Madhuri, Raman, Joseph, and Braganza in turn with solo improvisations by Raman, Joseph, Jessie and Jagadeesh.

It only remains to mention the contribution of Stanley Pinto, an old friend of Kitto from Kolkata, to the evening: it was he who’d put Kurien on the track of Kitto, and he who’d set the instigators of this concert on the path of doing something for him.

His visits to the stage to sing or play piano or to announce something were only the culmination of all that he did before the big day.

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