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All that jazz

Music greats perform at jazz and blues evening held at Tata Theatre to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr’s visit. Sumana Ramanan reports.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2009 01:30 IST
Sumana Ramanan
Sumana Ramanan
Hindustan Times

From the first riff to the last, the jazz and blues evening at south Mumbai’s Tata Theatre, featuring legends Herbie Hancock and George Duke, kept up an electric energy. Titled ‘The Living Dream’, the concert was organised to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr’s visit to India 50 years ago.

The highlight of the evening was Herbie Hancock’s ‘Actual Proof’, the king of all funk tunes, with scintillating improvisations by the master and a young saxophonist from the Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute.

A fusion piece with Brazilian sounds, Indian rhythm provided by tabla maestro Zakir Hussain and modern jazz elements, led by George Duke, electrified the audience.

Chaka Khan, she of the flowing, crimson hair, belted out ‘A night in Mumbai’, an improvisation of Dizzy Gillespie’s much-loved ‘A night in Tunisia.’

Dee Dee Bridgewater brought the audience to the edge of their seats with her powerful scatting in the middle of Miles Davis’ ‘All Blues’ and then calmed them with a moving a capella rendition of the popular Christain hymn ‘Amazing Grace.’

Martin Luther King III, son of the legendary civil rights activist, who is visiting India, briefly addressed the audience before the music began. “If Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr were physically with us today, they may tell us words of the… song that my dad and his team used to sing — We shall overcome,” said the son of the great American civil rights activist, just as Dee Dee Bridgewater and Chaka Khan, taking the cue, starting singing the anthem of the civil rights movement.

Such huge names were bound to attract local jazz connoisseurs as well as the gliteratti. Spotted in the audience were Taufique Qureshi, music director, percussionist and brother of Zakir Hussain; Harsh Goenka, chairman of the RPG group; and Daryl D'Monte, veteran environmental journalist.

Young Mumbai saxophonist Rhys D’Souza was also there to see his hero George Duke. “He really knows how to incorporate different instruments into one song,” said D’Souza.

Hours before the concert, the musicians improvised a jazzy version of Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, a hymn synonymous with Gandhi.

(With inputs from Purva Mehra)