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All that jazz: Bringing the swinging Sixties back to Mumbai

In its first edition, the Zizieland Jazz Festival pays tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and The Rat Pack.

mumbai Updated: Jul 08, 2017 08:24 IST
Roshni Nair
Louiz Banks, India’s most prolific jazz musician, will perform at the Ziziland Jazz Festival.
Louiz Banks, India’s most prolific jazz musician, will perform at the Ziziland Jazz Festival.
Zizieland Jazz Festival
  • When: Saturday, 6 pm (Show One) and 8 pm (Show Two)
  • Where: St Andrew’s Auditorium, Bandra
  • Cost: Tickets start at Rs 848 and are available online

The year 2004 was devastating for Mumbai’s jazz fans. The iconic Jazz Yatra, India’s first ever jazz fest – and a staple of Bombay’s event calendar since 1978 – breathed its last.

Nevil Timbadia, who grew up listening to the likes of Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong and spent his formative years attending live music concerts, was one of the crestfallen. Then he decided to do something about it.

“The idea was to hark back to what was once Mumbai’s distinct jazz spirit. Plus, this is also the year of Ella Fitzgerald’s centenary, so it was the right time to kick things off,” says the co-founder of ‘Live At The’ (LAT; formerly Homegrown India), the company behind the first edition of the Ziziland Jazz Festival (ZJF).

Samantha Edwards, lead singer of The Bombay Jazz Club, will perform Ella Fitzgerald’s most iconic songs.

ZJF will be divided into two shows. The first, ‘100 Years of Ella Fitzgerald’, will see the extensive repertoire of the Queen of Jazz being covered by The Bombay Jazz Club (TBJC).

“For me, vocal jazz came took centre-stage when Ella came into the scene. It would be impossible to do every song she did, but we’ve chosen the most iconic ones. One will be a song I did when I was eight years old,” says TBJC singer Samantha Edwards, one of India’s best jazz vocalists.

The second show is dedicated to The Rat Pack, the supergroup that comprised Sammy Davis Jr, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. The music will be performed by Rat Pack Songbook, whose members are Louiz Banks, Gary Lawyer, Gino Banks and Sheldon D’Silva.

Gary Lawyer, vocalist with The Rat Pack Songbook, will cover The Rat Pack’s most popular numbers.

“We are planning a very selective repertoire focusing on the songs made popular by Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin,” says Gino Banks. “Our set list will include ‘Birth of the Blues’, ‘Sway’, ‘Mack the Knife’ and ‘Lady is a Tramp’.”

It’s early days, but Nevil Timbadia plans to organize ZJF every year, specifically in the February-March period, to “get people excited about jazz again and give a platform to homegrown jazz bands”.

“We came up with ‘Zizieland’ because it sounds similar to Dixieland [a traditional jazz style from New Orleans]. The idea is to invoke the sense and sensibility of a ‘jazz town’, which I hope Mumbai will become,” he signs off.