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Jazz gets a leg up in Delhi

Jazz gets a leg up in Delhi
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In the last three years, the jazz music scene in the Capital has seen a shift from festivals offering a mix of big and small bands to independent concerts by new bands that are writing their own music arrangements.

The venues have changed too — from large open-air stages to nightspots.

The Capital has nearly a dozen or so ensembles that play a brand of assimilation jazz drawing from contemporary Western music genres such as funk, hip-hop, reggae, soul, blues, ballads and even a bit of rock.

The core of their composition is traditional jazz around which they improvise to re-arrange their music to different beats and new instrumentation.

‘If there is going to be progressive jazz fusion in the Capital and in India in general, a strong traditional jazz base is necessary to allow young musicians to improvise and bring in new influences. Young musicians here are now taking jazz seriously,’ Brian Citro, a jazz guitarist from Chicago and a member of the Brian Citro Trio said.

The Brian Citro Trio band is a cross-cultural outfit featuring two Indian musicians and Citro, who relocated to India in 2008 as a human rights lawyer from United States.

The musician, who has a university degree in performance jazz, teamed up with two Delhi musicians early this year to make independent music.

Critics have described the trio as ‘a welcome new addition to the contemporary Indian music scene, performing newly composed music’.

The trio re-interprets ‘jazz standards’ by legends such as Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter in free-style compositions.

At a concert in the Capital last week, Brian Citro re-arranged several popular jazz numbers by legendary American musicians with contemporary beats.

Jazz drummer Nikhil Vasudevan says the growing tendency to rearrange ‘jazz standards [original melodies]’ has been prompted by the mushrooming stand-alone concerts in lounge bars and pubs across the capital which demand faster and catchy rhythms.

In the last five years, a virtual-explosion of new cafes-cum-performance spaces have given young musicians a stage to experiment.

The night clubs have given fresh impetus to jazz. The music, which was earlier confined to annual fiestas such as the Jazz Yatra and Jazz Utsav, has freed itself to move the cooler lounge venues, Vasudevan says.

The re-arrangements hence play to the gallery of demands. ‘Some times a song is stripped to its bones and skeleton. Everything changes, including the rhythm,’ Vasudevan said.

Young jazz musicians in the Capital are experimenting with avant garde and free jazz like their counterparts in Europe and US.
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