Musicians from around the world are here for Jazz Utsav ’09. two of them tell us what to expect at the festival this year
It’s that time of the year, when jazz musicians from around the world gather in India, tune their instruments, and begin to jam. Kicking off the season is Jazz Utsav ’09, organised by Seagram’s 100 Pipers and Capital Jazz in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore over this weekend.
This year, popular jazz band Beatle Jazz (USA), with their recreation of the Beatles’ music, takes centrestage at the festival. Also in the limelight is another American jazz-rock band, Steely Dan.
The three-day event will see bands like Eric Vloeimans Quartet (the Netherlands), Nils Olav Johansen Quartet (Norway) and Saskia Laroo (the Netherlands) perform. Two leading musicians at the festival, Amit Heri and Andrea Marcelli, talk to us about their style, jazz today and more.
Amit Heri is popular with jazz enthusiasts across the country. This Bangalorean’s dynamic style has taken him to many a jazz festival all over the world, and he has played with maestros like Zakir Hussain, Sultan Khan, Louis Banks, Sivamani and many more.
Tell us about your latest collaboration.
Of late, I have been playing with Sanjay Divecha, with whom I will also play at Jazz Utsav ’09. We have had this acoustic guitar duo going for a few years now. We play our original compositions. We have our own styles of playing with a lot of room for exploration. We both are similar in terms of experiences, having studied and worked abroad for a while. But in our music, the emotions we bring out are different.
At the Utsav, we plan to play an original set — with compositions both mine and Sanjay’s. They will be mainly based on Latin jazz and some Indian jazz.
How do you define Indian jazz?
I view Indian jazz as jazz which is based on Indian music, such as concepts of rhythm, melody and some stylistic elements. A jazz piece could also be based on a raga.
Jazz being an ensemble of sounds, is it tough to get an act together?
Yes, jazz is certainly more complicated than others, technically and in what it contains. It requires more artistry than other genres of music. It requires a different sensibility and it’s important to interact with other musicians. It’s a lot about space and improvisations.
Jazz has become a fad, of late. How much do Indian audiences really understand it?
Yes, people are into it because there is an element of friendliness in jazz. People are attracted to it for several reasons. But whatever brings people to it, it’s a good thing. They may not understand it, but if you can connect with it, it’s good enough. As people listen more, it will create an interest. But I don’t know if they can tell the difference between good and bad.
Which Indian jazz artistes would you recommend?
There aren’t too many in India, but more than before. I like those I play with. I like the music of Sanjay Divecha, Louiz Banks, Karl Peters and Sonia Sehgal, to name a few.
Andrea Marcelli is a popular jazz musician from Italy. His musical sound is an eclectic mix because he grew up all over starting with Rome, Italy, where he spent over a decade, and then in America, and now he lives in Berlin.
He identifies with North American, Latin American as well as European jazz, and though he is a true-blue jazz drummer, he is equally intrigued by the Indian tabla.
Tell us about your style of jazz.
Music is about dialogue, talking about the big problems of the world, listening to each other and proposing ideas. In my trio, we play some Italian songs — and while playing, we listen to each other. It’s about inner trust.
I am Italian but I play music from other countries. My style is easy to relate to and not complicated. It’s mellow, with acoustics, some Latin beats and a bit of punk. I also like playing immortal melodies.
Since jazz follows a free style, when you improvise on stage, how much do you involve your audience?
We start with one melody and then go on to play with chords, according to the other musicians on stage. We follow each other, and listen to one another. We keep composing, and the energy of the people adds to it. The tunes that emerge become our message.
What are some of the characteristics of jazz that differ from country to country?
Since I have lived in the US and Germany for many years, I have some American characteristics. The sound there is distinctly more groovy.
I also blend some Latin American elements into my style, which is a different kind of groove altogether. Scandinavian jazz, meanwhile, gives more space within compositions and has an open feel to it.
In Germany, though, musicians go deep into composing, which are heavily influenced by western classical music, especially Bach and Beethoven.
Then again, jazz can be played in every country and every instrument can be played to jazz.