Event Music

Jazz and its Indian journey

The JBD Trio   | Photo Credit: 15dfrJazz

A journey to the middle of the good old days of jazz, but not via the main road; rather, a detour that leads toward Asia and India. The soundtrack of this “oriental tour” came from the instruments of “The JBD Trio”, a Delhi-based band, during a jazz concert held in the Capital. The band had Jayant Manchanda on the double bass, Dereck Ecvold on the saxophone and Bob Gordon on the drums. In the air were notes of some Jazz legends like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Dave Brubeck. The event was held in the crowded auditorium of the American Center. An audience comprising people of all ages sat everywhere; even on the stairs outside, underlining the huge and solid role that Jazz music plays in the cultural life of the Capital.

The journey of the relationship between jazz and India started in Mumbai at the beginning of the 20th Century, precisely in the music halls of the luxurious Taj Mahal Hotel where members of the city elite used to spend their evenings listening to music. It is in these soirees that jazz, a music coming from overseas, began to gain reputation. In a fusion of western and eastern culture, the stage used to host Goan and African-American musicians, creating a prolific cultural and musical contamination that led us directly to the '30s and the 20 years period known as the golden age of Indian jazz. In these years India became a cultural refuge for the community of African-American musicians; a place where they could keep playing their music safely. Both the racist climate in their hometowns, mainly situated in the southern United States, and the European dictatorships, had turned jazz into a risky business.

The sound of “In your own sweet way”, composed by Dave Brubeck in 1955, led to the '50s and to a turning point for jazz in India as well as for the country itself. The World War-II was over and India had just become an independent nation. In this frame jazz met the popular entertainment par excellence— Bollywood. Until then, an elitist divertissement soundtrack of the upper-class evening parties, jazz now shifted from the halls of the five stars hotels to cinemas, becoming part of mass culture. The song “Shola jo bhakde” from the movie “Albela” can be cited as the first example of a relationship that will last long, giving birth to hits like “Eena Meena Deeka” from the box office hit movie “Aasha”, 1957.

“The JDB Trio” brought the audience to the last step of the journey with an excellent tribute to Duke Ellington, the jazz ambassador during the 1963 State Department Tour, who spent few weeks in India, playing in several cities. The saxophone notes of “Isfahan” a song from the album “The Far East Suite” and the famous song “Take the A train” were supposed to close the journey, but the warm request of an encore forced the band to return on the stage for a generous farewell session.

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 2:45:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/jazz-and-its-indian-journey/article7205356.ece

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