Get Your Feet Tapping With NCPA’s First International Jazz Festival | Verve Magazine
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November 24, 2017

Get Your Feet Tapping With NCPA’s First International Jazz Festival

Text by Shubham Ladha

Are you ready to get into Whiplash mode this weekend?

If you’ve watched 2014’s critically acclaimed film Whiplash, you’d realise that jazz isn’t the easiest of music genres to master, which is probably why it is one of the most riveting musical forms to watch live.

To bring this art form to the fore, the NCPA is gearing up to host its very first edition of International Jazz Festival with a medley of renowned Indian as well as international artists. Just like jazz is the umbrella for a variety of sounds to grow and merge into a wide spectrum, the festival’s lure is in its versatile offerings — from tributes to timeless icons such as Miles Davis and Duke Ellington to the vivaciously tropical beats of Afro-Cuban music. The most awaited moment of the night is bound to be the finale, bringing all the performers to jam together in a fitting appeasement of the Gods of music.

We spoke to Farrahnaz Irani, General Manager – International Music at NCPA, who commented, “For the first time, jazz enthusiasts will be able to enjoy a series of acclaimed bands and soloists from India and abroad in an interesting format that combines experimental styles with familiar jazz standards and new compositions. We hope to set the ball rolling on attracting the best talent in this field so that audiences get an opportunity to enjoy top-notch music.”

We caught up with homegrown band, The Latination and the quintets of UK’s Kevin Davy and US’ Greg Banaszak about the inception of their bands and passion for their art…

The Latination:

On the band’s formation… “We actually used to perform together in a now-disbanded Latin-jazz band called Los Amigos. When we went our separate ways in 2014, some of the musicians decided to carry on performing Latin-jazz together. We completely reinvented ourselves with new compositions and sophisticated arrangements, calling ourselves The Latination.”

On the elemental differences between Latin-jazz and standard jazz… “Latin-jazz, as the name suggests, is a blend of jazz and Latin music. Latin-jazz uses sophisticated harmonies as well as the structure and improvisation prevalent in jazz but adds to it the delightful background of Caribbean, Latin-American and Afro-Cuban musical patterns and idioms. It focuses on the rhythm and dance-inducing musical aspects inherent to these musical cultures, especially through the extensive use of percussion instruments.”

On shedding light on their niche genre…“We’ve tried to increase visibility for this genre by performing everywhere we can. Also, teaching Latin music is an important precursor to building awareness around such kind of music.”

On performing at the festival… “It is, of course, a great pleasure and we are especially honoured to be the trailblazers in this case since it’s the very first edition. The fact that the only Indian band performing at the festival is a Latin-jazz band will go  recognition of the genre in India.”

Kevin Davy Quintet:

On returning to perform jazz… “This year, I had the opportunity to play and spearhead small jazz ensembles through tours of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Kuwait. There were well-received by the audience and I was offered a few gigs in the UAE by Jump Media called JAZZATTACK. These were very successful, especially since I got to share the stage with the great Mud Morganfield (the son of Muddy Waters), as well as US bassist Marco Mendoza.”

On his most memorable performance… “I remember the quintet’s appearance together at the 2017 Colombo Jazz Festival in Sri Lanka during the JAZZATTACK tour when we played a set for a Miles Davis tribute. That audience loved it and the fact that the festival was well-organised just intensified the whole experience for us.”

On performing for the first time in India… “We are honoured to have been invited to be part of NCPA’s International Jazz Festival. We come with high expectations because Mumbai is one of the greatest cities in the world. For us, this is an international world stage, and we look forward to playing here.”

Greg Banaszak Quintet:

On forming his quintet… “My quintet was formed over many years and it began with performing with Chris Anderson who is a world-class trombonist. His talent is exceptional as is his dedication and work ethic. He has been performing with me for over twenty-five years.

Chris introduced me to our pianist Theron Brown a decade ago. He has the special talent of capturing the essence of jazz when he is performing, for many in the audience cannot help but smile and tap their feet to his infectious harmony, blues and gospel stylings.

For this concert, we will be sharing the stage with Gianluca Liberatore and Aron Nyiro, Italy’s finest bassists who currently reside in Mumbai. Liberatore performed with me during the milestone Bird with Strings concert a few years ago with Symphony Orchestra of India at NCPA.”

On the inspirations for their performance… “The jazz icons who we will be paying tribute to are my eternal sources of inspiration. All of these musicians composed hundreds of works — a lifetime of music to learn from and perform for others. Some of the composers we will be featuring are legends such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Jackie McLean, Herbie Hancock and J.J.Johnson.”

On Charlie Chaplin being a major influence…“Charlie Chaplin was a true genius and the Father of American Cinema, yet he was extradited from the United States during the McCarthy hearings and wrongly deemed a Communist. Many of his works were banned. Personally, I think that the current state of arts and culture in the U.S. is tragic. Chaplin worked tirelessly on every scene of his films. Although his films were in black and white,  there were many shades of grey in between the spectrum of those two fundamental colours that Chaplin keenly saw and utilised.”

On comparing this performance to their previous one at the NCPA… “In Bird with Strings, I presented the music of Parker in the form of a “musical portrait”, in that I did not alter any aspect of his original composition. I wanted the audience to hear the unfiltered version of the brilliance that he played with. The current program features popular jazz standards as well as my own composition that I wrote for  Benny Soans, a dear friend and one of Mumbai’s finest jazz drummers, who recently passed away.

We are going to simply do what we do best, which is play from our hearts and soul while exploring our own voices through the modern harmony of jazz. I am grateful to be performing for such a wonderful audience at the NCPA. The people of India are truly amazing and beautiful, so much so, that I have started to feel like Mumbai is my second home!”

NCPA’s International Jazz Festival will be held from today until the 26th of November, 2017 at NCPA.

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