The year 2015 wrapped up in fine style with a series of jazz performances at venues such as The B-Flat Bar, the best gathering spot for live jazz in Bangalore! The featured bands included a number of local and international artistes, covering a range of styles: straight-ahead jazz, soul, Cuban jazz, Arabic fusion, Indo-jazz, blues, blues-rock, ambient jazz and electro-jazz.
In our regular annual deep dive, we look at some of the groups who delighted jazz fans this year at B-Flat. Performances were also held at other Bangalore venues such as The Blue Frog, Windmill Craftworks, Counter Culture, Humming Tree and Alliance Francaise. See my earlier article for a 2014 roundup: http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/2014-roundup-indo-jazz-and-blues-rock-delight-bangalore-fans/
Guitarist Amit Heri and drummer Ranjit Barot had the audience enthralled along with Karim Ellaboudi on keyboards for a terrific set early in the year. Amit Heri blends Indian music with jazz, rock and funk. He has played at Montreux Jazz festival, Berlin Jazz festival, WOMAD, London Jazz festival, and the Paris Jazz festival. He has collaborated with Charlie Mariano, Zakir Hussain, U. Srinivas, Salif Keita, Angelique Kidjo, Trilok Gurtu, and Dominique DiPiazza. His albums include ‘Jhoola’ and ‘Elephant Walk.’ Ranjit Barot has been on the international circuit since the 1980s, is now part of ‘John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension.’ His debut album is ‘Bada Boom.’ Pianist Karim Ellaboudi shuttles between the UK and India.
Bodhisattwa Trio is an experimental jazz-rock outfit, and featured Bodhisattwa Ghosh on guitars, Bijit Bhattacharya on bass and Premjit Dutta on drums. Based in Kolkata, the band’s album is titled ‘Intersections.’ Ghosh has been playing the blues for over ten years, and bassist Bijit also plays with electronica outfit Zoo and folk fusion act Charon. Dutta has studied tabla and Latin jazz, and teaches at Calcutta School of Music.
Music faculty from the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM) played on two separate occasions. The Latin jazz lineup included Steve Zerlin (bass), Natalie John (vocals), Karina Colis (drums), Carolina Calvache (piano) and Brian Metreyon (guitar). Natalie has sung at the Peru Jazz Festival and the Seoul Jazz Festival, and has appeared with the Youngjoo Song Trio, Joshua Davis Group, guitarist Prasanna, Ingrid Jensen, and the Bjorkestra. Her albums include Unveiled (2010), and Natalie and Maya (2012).
Another awesome Afro-Latin jazz lineup from SAM featured Marcos Nimrichter (Brazil) on piano, Greg Diamond (US) on guitar, Mili Vizcaino (Spain) on vocals, Johann Berby (Reunion/France) on bass, and Andre Sousa Machado (Portugal) on drums. Marcos is a Grammy Award winner, and has played with Wynton Marsalis, Al Jarreau, Michel Legrand, Stanley Jordan, and Billy Cobham. Greg is at the forefront of the contemporary Latin jazz scene in New York city. Johann ‘s music reflects his own mixed family background: Indian, Malagasy and Mozambican; he has played with Trilok Gurtu Band, Jan Garbarek, Marcus Miller, and Oumou Sangaré Group. Sousa attended the Academia dos Amadores de Musica (Portugal) and has performed with Tete Montoliu, Steve Slagle, Phil Markowitz and Conrad Herwig.
Guitarist Bhrigu Sahni and drummer Agneya Chikte showed how much diversity and texture a talented duo is capable of generating. Bhrigu is based in Brooklyn, New York, and is a graduate from the Berklee College of Music. He has played with Angelique Kidjo, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Karsh Kale. He also works with Dharavi Rocks and Make a Difference, to teach music to underprivileged and highly talented slum kids. Agneya Chikte is a percussionist and faculty member at The True School of Music.
Karthick Iyer is a violinist, composer and vocalist in the carnatic style of South India, but has also journeyed into new territories over the last two decades. He launched his new album ‘IndoSoul’ which aims to ‘take Indian music to the world and bring the world to Indian music.’ Iyer has also worked with Oscar winning music composer A.R. Rahman, and won a number of awards himself (see my interview here: http://jazzuality.com/interview/exclusive-interview-with-karthick-iyer/). He performed along with Vikram Vivekanand (guitars), Naveen Napier (bass), Sumesh Narayanan (mridangam) and Ramkumar Kanakarajan (drums).
The Homi Rustumji Quintet performed an upbeat set of Latin jazz, with Homi Rustumji on bass, Arun Haridas Kamath on vocals, Siddharth Pandit on keyboard, Sahil Shah on drums, and Harshvardhan Gadhvi on guitar. Homi was born in London and raised in Bangalore. Arun is skilled in Carnatic music, and Siddharth plays Indian classical music as well as jazz. Sahil Shah is a graduate of the True School of Music, and Harsh plays across a range of genres.
The Beer Puppets are a young neo-soul and funk band with strong jazz influences. The lineup includes Shreya Bhattacharya on vocals, Avishek Dey on bass, and Srinjay Banerjee on guitar. These Calcutta-based musicians performed along with Chennai musicians Shyam Rao on drums and Anthony Karuna on keyboards.
Sulk Station performed lush, moody and hypnotic music, showcasing Tanvi Rao’s sultry vocals layered over Rahul Giri’s minimalist electronic production. Their songs are a mix of contemporary electronic genres (trip-hop/ambient) with traces of Indian classical music and jazz. Their albums include ‘Till You Appear.’
One of the most unusual Indo-jazz fusion lineups featured funk group Sylvester Trio along with Santosh Jayaram on electric veena. Sylvester Pradeep (guitar, vocals), Joel Rozario (drums) and Snehal Pinto (bass) teamed up in 2013, and blend jazz with blues and progressive rock. They have also collaborated with Mumbai-based Santosh for a string of performances, and the Bangalore gig included guest vocalists Arati Rao and Carlton Braganza.
Another fine East-West fusion lineup, Animata, included Sarah Buechi (Swiss vocalist), Prakash Sontakke (Hindustani slide guitar), Kartik Mani (Indian percussion) and Christoph Haberer (drums). Buechi graduated from Lucerne`s Musikhochschule and has collaborated with Steve Coleman, Nils Wogram, Christy Doran and Christoph Stiefel. Sontakke is an award-winning musician spanning Indian classical and jazz music, and plays with the groups Lehera, Moonarra, Food, and Figura Ensemble. He has collaborated with Thomas Strønen, Iain Ballamy, and Ciro Hurtado, and produces the Sontakke Global Music Festival. Karthik is a percussionist in the carnatic-jazz fusion tradition, and has performed with U. Sreenivas, Mysore Manjunath, Praveen Godkhindi, Ravi Chary, Mory Kante, Dhafer Yousuf, and Mokhtar Samba. Christoph is a jazz drummer who also blends in electronic effects.
Jazz from Down Under also came to Bangalore, thanks to the Alex Stuart Quintet (Australia/France). Alex was promoting his third album, ‘Place To Be,’ which featured African and Latin grooves along with Asian influences (Vietnam, India). He was accompanied by Warren Walker (US) on tenor saxophone, Nishad Pandey (Australia/India) on guitar, Adam Teixeira (Canada) on drums, and Mishko M’ba (France/Reunion) on bass. See also my earlier interview with Mishko: http://jazzuality.com/interview/exclusive-interview-with-mishko-mba/
The 2015 programming at B-Flat ended in fine style with the final tour performance of keyboardist Aman Mahajan’s project, ‘Refuge.’ The set included a blend of folk and classical influences. Aman was accompanied by Matt Littlewood (saxophone), Mishko M’ba (electric bass) and Jeoraj George (drumset).
Other great venues to check out jazz in Bangalore are the Blue Frog, Windmill Craftworks, Counter Culture, Humming Tree, Indigo Live and Alliance Francaise; malls like VR Bangalore and Phoenix Market City also have large open spaces for live performances. Here are some of the other bands which played at these venues in Bangalore.
Kiriaka, a samba-reggae band from Sweden, is a 36-member percussion band from Gothenburg, and brought the sounds of Brazil and the Caribbean to Bangalore. The thunderous performance, with waves of choreographed collaboration, kept the audience on their feet for the whole set. The band members also danced their way in a chain through the audience, with many others joining the procession.
The Rémi Panossian Trio, whose earlier albums are ‘Bang’ and ‘Add Fiction,’ performed an energetic and lyrical set. They have performed at the Tokyo Jazz Festival, Jarasum Jazz Festival (South Korea), Taichung Jazz Festival (Taiwan) and Nanjing Jazz Festival (China). The lineup includes Remi Panossian (piano), Maxime Delporte (bass) and Fredric Petitprez (drums).
German saxophonist Roger Hanschel played along with Indian musicians Deobrat Mishra on sitar and Prashant Mishra on tabla as the group ‘Trio Benares.’ Roger studied at the Musikhochschule Köln in Germany and School for Fine Arts in Banff, Canada. He also founded the trio Triosphere, quarter Heavy Rotation, and a duo with the singer Gabriele Hasler, and has teamed with Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger as well. See my interview with Hanschel here: http://jazzuality.com/interview/exclusive-interview-with-roger-hanschel/
Farah Siraj played a wide-ranging world music set with influences of Arabic, flamenco and jazz elements. Regarded as Jordan’s ‘Musical Ambassadress,’ she has been described as the ‘Norah Jones of the Middle East.’ The vocalist-composer was joined by Carolina Calvache (piano), Karina Colis (drums) and Abhinav Khokhar (bass).
Cuban jazz by way of Holland came to Bangalore thanks to percussionist Lucas Van Merwijk and his Music Machine. He has been at the forefront of the European Latin jazz scene for 30 years. He was elected ‘Best Jazz drummer’ in the Benelux countries for six years running (1993-1999), and teaches in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Lucas was accompanied by ace Cuban pianist Ramón Valle. The band also conducted an afternoon workshop at the Bangalore School of Music.
Kolkata-based Latin jazz band Latination teamed up with Paris-based percussionist Emmanuel Simon for a gig. Emmanuel has played at World Percussion Festival (Nehru Park, Delhi), Kolkata Jazz festival and Bengaluru International Arts Festival. Pradyumna Singh Manot (aka Paddy) has performed across Asia, along with Premjit Dutta (timbales) and Bijit Bhattacharya (bass).
The fifth annual ‘Ode to the Blues’ festival at Counterculture was a massive draw for blues fans. Held across two stages – one indoor and one outdoor – the festival featured a range of 15 international and Indian artistes. Rick Payne is an established acoustic blues guitarist from the UK, and has been featured on BBC World Service. Steve Treble, from Bristol, showcased bass and rhythm techniques on the lead guitar. A highlight was Madou Sidiki Diabate from Mali, who has been playing kora since the age of three. His elder brother is Grammy Award winner Toumani Diabaté. The Indian lineup included Ministry of Blues, The Chronic Blues Circus, HoodooGas, and Windozem, and culminated with Soulmate. The blues rock band from Shillong is spearheaded by Rudy Wallang on guitar and the phenomenal Tipriti ‘Tips’ Kharbangar on vocals.
Will Galison and his quartet enthralled the audience with the wide range of creative sounds from the humble harmonica. He was accompanied by Yoshi Waki on bass, Billy Test on keyboards, and Darrell Smith on drums. His music has been featured in the soundtracks of a number of Hollywood films as well.
Vasundhara Vee and Sanjay Divecha delivered a terrific set with soaring blues and jazz. Vasundhara is very active in the soul and jazz scene in India – on radio, TV and live performances; her earlier album is ‘Ampersand.’ Sanjay is a composer and guitarist based in Mumbai, and has played along with Angelique Kidjo, Carlos Santana, Dumazz and Sambaguru. He graduated from the Guitar Institute of Technology, and has played in cities ranging from New Orleans to New Delhi. His albums include ‘Full Circle,’ and his music currently blends jazz with Indian folk and classical.
Sean Roldan (aka R Raghavendra), a professional Carnatic classical musician, showcased a fusion blend with blues and folk music. His witty song-writing and guitar playing drew rousing applause, along with Pradeep on slide guitar, Sooraj on bass and Praveen Sparsh on percussion. See my writeup of his earlier performance here: http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/big-bang-blues-4th-element-a-new-generation-of-blues-and-jazz-in-india/
Roots blues by way of France was presented by the charming band Lil’ Red & The Roosters. Ohio vocalist Jennifer Milligan, with 35 years experience, is now based in Paris and also plays snare shuffle and washboard scratch. She was accompanied by French blues guitarist Pascal Fouquet and the incredible Thomas Troussier on blues harp.
One of the highlights of the year was the performance by legendary jazz-fusion guitarist John McLaughlin. His earlier Indo-jazz lineups include Mahavishnu Orchestra and Shakti. His current lienup, ‘The Fourth Dimension,’ includes Etienne Mbappe on bass, Ranjit Barot on drums and Gary Husband on keyboards and drums. The Bangalore performance marked the final leg of the band’s international tour of 2015.
Mumbai-based guitarist Dhruv Ghanekar performed along with drummer Gino Banks, keyboardist Karan ‘Mad Fingers’ Joseph and bassist Sheldon D’Silva. Dhruv has performed overseas at the Borneo International Jazz Festival and Java Jazz Festival, and has played with Vieux Farka Toure, Richard Bona and Raul Midon.
Indian violinist Jyotsna Srikanth promoted her recent album ‘Bangalore Dreams,’ featuring carnatic violin along with drums and keyboards. Based in London, she blends Indian classical music with Western classical, folk and jazz. She has performed at WOMAD, Red Violin Festival, and The Music Academy, Chennai. Jyotsna is the Artistic Director of the London International Arts Festival, and has performed on soundtracks of over 200 films. She performed in Bangalore along with Shadrach Solomon on keyboards and Manjunath N.S. on drums.
I picked up over a dozen CDs for review and radio play from the artistes, and already look forward to another terrific lineup of bands at B-Flat and other Bangalore venues in 2016!
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Written by Madanmohan Rao
Editor & DJ, World Music and Jazz;
Bangalore Global Correspondent for Jazzuality.com