Mumbai based musicians to pay tribute to pianist Ahmad Jamal

  • Poorva Joshi, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Aug 28, 2015 14:54 IST
"Jamal is known for his juxtaposing heavy chords with gentle motifs," says Loiz Banks, the godfather of jazz in India

American pianist Ahmad Jamal's cover of Poinciana, a romantic track from the 1952 comedy, Dreamboat, was composed entirely on a piano, bass guitar and drums.

It was unlike other jazz tracks from that era, which mostly used wind instruments. Upbeat-yet-mellow, it was a mix of heavy chords and gentle motifs. In 1958, the song was listed on Billboard's top 100 for a record-breaking 108 weeks.

Poinciana was a turning point for the Pennsylvania-based musician, who pioneered the jazz culture in America and established the genre as the 'new American classical music'. Today, at 85, Jamal continues to inspire musicians around the world.

Drummer Gino Banks (left) and Bass guitarist Sheldon D'Silva (right)

This weekend, city-based The Louiz Banks Matrixx Trio (featuring pianist Louiz Banks, drummer Gino Banks and bass guitarist Sheldon D'Silva) will perform Legends: A Tribute to Ahmad Jamal at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA).

"The tribute was overdue. He is a living legend. He revolutionised the genre and his entire approach to jazz is inspiring," says Banks, who is considered to be the godfather of jazz in India. "Jamal didn't perform to show off his talent; he did it to showcase his passion for the music and emphasised the nuances of the genre," he asserts.

The band will perform a mixed repertoire including compositions like Reflections on a Dull Day and Lady in Blue. The songs, which are from its album, Jamal Mania, highlight the American artiste's contribution to jazz and encourage audiences to revisit the genre."People find the music intimidating; they believe that they won't understand it and thus avoid listening to it. Little do they realise that jazz is enjoyable; all you have to do is listen closely," says Gino.

The band believes that the pigeonholing of the genre as a 'niche' led to it being sidelined. "Jazz has become inaccessible in Mumbai. There haven't been mainstream outlets since Not Just Jazz By The Bay, which provided artistes with a platform to experiment with the genre," says Gino.

D'Silva rues the fact that the genre is neglected at music festivals too: "NH7 Weekender keeps churning out the same music year after year, but never jazz. If a platform is opening up, it should be extended to all genres. It is high time jazz is given its due." However, the trio is hopeful that jazz will make a gradual comeback. Pockets across India are opening up slowly.

Delhi and Chennai have annual jazz festivals that are very popular. For instance, the Chennai Jazz Music Festival was held inside a mall, which helped attract a sizeable audience. "The audience in the next 15-20 years will have a different outlook towards jazz. Till then, as artistes, we can take this genre to the people, and do our bit to keep the jazz culture alive," says Banks.

Best of Jamal

But Not For Me
Album: But Not For Me (1958)

Autumn Rain
Album: Rossiter Road (1986)

Spartacus Love Theme
Album: Genetic Walk (1975)

All of You
Album: Ahmad Jamal Plays (1955)

Album: Crystal (1987)

The Louiz Banks Matrixx Trio will perform a tribute concert to Ahmad Jamal on August 29, 7pm onward Tata Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
Tickets: Rs 350


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