Flying fingers

PLEASING NOTES The solos were typically taken at quite a clip

PLEASING NOTES The solos were typically taken at quite a clip   | Photo Credit: Photos: Bhagya Prakash K.

A brilliant solo jazz piano concert left Bangaloreans asking for more of the city’s own boy wonder Sharik Hasan

It was less than six months ago that I wrote in these columns about Sharik Hasan that his virtuosity on the piano had a tendency to overshadow, ever so slightly, his colleagues on bass and drums. Whether or not that’s fair, since many pianists leading trios tend to dominate them, Hasan solved the problem, if it is one, neatly on January 8 at the Alliance Française (AF).

Performing under the aegis of the International Music and Arts Society and the AF, Hasan played solo piano, a role in which I have never before heard him during the roughly two years since he participated in a jazz concert here. For about an hour and 20 minutes, Hasan regaled the audience with his brilliance on the piano. He went through some 11 pieces, two of them his own compositions, and the rest jazz and pop standards well-known in the jazz canon.

The tempos ranged from slow to fast, but typically on some of the pieces Hasan started with a slow intro, perhaps speeding it up slightly for the main theme and then faster for the improvisation. Then he would slow down again as he returned to the theme. In most cases there was some improvisation even on the basic theme, for instance, adding lots of notes in between those of the original score, before he proceeded to what would be the main improvisation (solos, as jazz musicians call them).

For instance, on Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s “The Song Is You”, he made his intentions explicit by saying he had made his own arrangement of the tune, the original of which he recapitulated first before his own performance of it. This was characterised by a catchy riff or short repeated phrase that he played with the left hand, more or less throughout the piece, although the riff changed for the main improvisations. All the while the right hand worked hard at playing the theme with added notes, and then the improvised “solos”. The first of these started at the bass end, even lower than the left hand riff. The solos were typically taken at quite a clip, much faster than the opening, which was just the left hand riff.

The same pattern of speeding up the pace in the middle, especially on the improvisations, was heard on “All the Things You Are” (also composed by Kern and Hammerstein) and “A Child Is Born” (by Thad Jones). Also on Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine”, which showed a slight variation in that after slowing down and playing softer towards the end, Hasan finished with a flourish, which was taken faster again, and rising to a crescendo. On fast numbers such as Oliver Nelson’s “Butch and Butch”, Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” (the latter being a test of a jazz musician’s proficiency with be-bop), and the Gershwin brothers’ “I Got Rhythm”, the pace didn’t vary.

While for me his rendition of “The Song Is You” was the pick of the concert, special mention must also be made of the last two pieces, both of which Hasan said were special favourites of his mother’s. Duke Ellington’s “Night Train” aka “Happy-Go-Lucky Local”, a number that he said she used to keep time to with her car horn when the tape was playing on the stereo, stirred up the audience as it identified the points at which she tooted the horn. As his encore, Hasan played Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “Mack the Knife”, again a vehicle for changing the tempo from slow to medium, interposed notes, and, for a change, going into a very high register.

High or low register, slow tempo or fast, soft or loud, or creatively experimenting with all these while improvising the melody with lightning-fast runs on the right hand, Hasan was never less than brilliant at any time. A totally satisfying concert, one that left us hoping that we’ll hear more from him, as we certainly will as this native of Bangalore returns home from time to time to thrill us.


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