1st Hyderabad Jazz Festival 25-27th Nov.


    The Twin Cities benefitted from three evenings of Jazz; the first ever Jazz festival conducted in Hyderabad and made possible by the Secunderabad Club, Thank you, Shashidhar B., President, Secunderabad Club, for having the vision to host a jazz festival in the beautiful and prestigious property. And Thank you, Amita Desai, Executive Director, Goethe Zentrum, Hyderabad, for visiualising the festival, and of course Joe Koster of the Hyderabad Western Music Foundation.

    The Hyderabad jazz Festival was held on November 25th , 26th and the 27th, 2015, making November 2015 a very special time in the lives of true music lovers in the Twin Cities.

    How can one describe spending three evenings of euphoria in the in the muse of music while the Twin Cities and the Hyderabad Jazz Festival was honoured by the presence of world-class Jazz musicians from India and abroad.

    Jazz is a musical art form, and Jazz is listening music, it involves and sends into ecstacies those fortunate in having the artistic sensibilities to enjoy it. It therefore has a small but distinguished following, as does Carnatic classical music, Hindustani Classical music or Western Classical music. 

    25th November - The first day – There were Three performances.

    The opening performance was by Hyderabads’ very own eight peice brass band, JAZZED FRIENDS. The Brass section - George Hull on Alto Saxophone, Humayun Mirza on Trumpet, Joe Koster on Trombone, Raphael Courtay on Clarinet. The Rhythm section had Aman Mahajan replacing Dennis Powell on Piano, Karthik Kalyan on Drums and Triveni Sunkara on Bass. And on Vocals - Shakila. The band played its set pieces with vigour and enthusiasm and did well to open the Jazz Festival with good old Dixieland and Swing standards.

    The next act was UJJAL KUMAR SAHA, a virtuoso jazz guitarist from Hyderabad, who played a skillful tribute to the guitarist Joe Pass, playing standards such as ‘Autumn Leaves’, ‘Misty’ and ‘Don’t Get Around Much Any More’, in a unique style that incorporated bass lines and melody at the same time.

    The days’ main band came next. ROOTS & SHOOTS is a German/Indian Band that plays collaborative and inventive music that explores and exchanges intercultural musical ideas, seamlessly, and with great musicality. The band is quite different from any other previous East/West musical fusions that have taken place in the past, by playing harmony without confusion. The band members are composer Sebastian Gramms on Upright Bass, leader of the Sebastian Gramms Trio that comprises Mattias Muche – Trombone, and Erwin Ditzner – Drums, the Trio melds with Composer and sitar player - Hindol Deb, Paras Nath – Bansuri and Amit Misra on Tabla. As mentioned before, this was  breakthrough music, because unlike previous bands that fuse Indian music and jazz, which is linear in character, this band, with beautifully arranged compositions, harmonised with the Bansuri, Sitar, Trombone and Bass producing some glorious music, with the Tabla and drums accompanying and lending a swinging rhythm to the beautiful, rare and melodic music that was performed with intelligence and passion. Listening to them was an exuberant experience that could only be enjoyed when listening to great music by great musicians.

    26th November – the second day – This day was a coup of sorts, there was no single main Band, there were two major league Indian Jazz bands on stage. Refuge, from Bangalore, and The Adrian D’Souza Trio from Mumbai.

    REFUGE is a jazz/world ensemble headed by Aman Mahajan on keyboard. He is an Alumni of the Berklee School of Music, Boston. All the musicians in Refuge are professionals who have played with major musicians in India and abroad, Matt Littlewood from UK, on Soprano Saxophone, is also a composer and leads his own group performing original works. Abhinav Khokhar of New Delhi, is a fine bass player and also a guitarist, pianist and composer who has performed with several musicians from New York, South America, Spain, Netherlands and of course, India. And critically acclaimed Jeoraj George on drums  who has trained at DrumTech, London, and has performed with prominent artists Jazz, Funk and Indian Classical musicians like Sudha Raghunathan and Hariharan.

   Refuge played beautifully imagined musical themes composed by pianist Aman Mahajan. The music was structured and improvised in equal parts, and  combined the spirit of jazz with a myriad of folk and classical influences. A fulfilling set! Every musician in this well-knit unit was an integral part of the music that built brilliant musical conversations out of each of the compositions.   

    THE ADRIAN D’SOUZA TRIO – This Trio of consummate musicians regaled the audience with a series of bluesy, funky, sometimes rocking and always swinging Jazz. The first tune, Back at the Chickenshack, set the tone for their set for the evening. Jimmy Smith’s composition was played by Keyboard/Organist Karan Joseph, who played this piece combining bluesy "licks" with tasteful improvisation while playing a walking bass line with his left hand. Another tune, ‘Wave’, was beautifully rendered by the Trio, with Sanjay Divecha on guitar, proving to be a sympathetic and exeptionally talented exponent of this beautiful tone poem. And all the tunes that the Trio played was empathetically accompanied by the intellectual of the jazz drumset, Adrian D’Souza, who, though is the leader of the group, does not impose his drums but keeps an inventive, creative flow of pulses and cadences, with a varied, yet rhythmic logic that is always appropriate and always in the moment.

    It was obvious that this was an acclaimed Jazz Trio and their set would be acknowledged as one of the best anywhere in the world.

    27th November 2015 – the final day  -The evening opened with a short set of songs by:

    DECCAN VOICES: As reported in the Times of India, “initiating the jazz journey and setting the mood just right as they sang and clapped on the stage. The audience joined in by clapping with them.” This Hyderabad based vocal ensemble performed Stevie Wonder’s‘Sir Duke’, and ended with ‘Happy’, by Pharrell Williams. The singers were: Soprano: Haritha Govind, Rithvika Prasad, Celsa Almeida, Karthika Vattakavil, Samhita Maha, Sameera, Oxana, Shika  Alto: Reena Kurien, Aparajita Gupta, Ramya Smita. Tenor: Vijay Raj, Murali, Suneet.  Bass: T. Raghav Rao, Glen Williams, Aditya T.B., Varghese Jacob  Conductor/Accompanist: Joe Koster.

    The next band was called FUNK CHECKPOST, The band members Anirban Chakravarty, on Guitar, Jesper Dejby, Soprano Saxophone, Vijay Kumar, Voclas/ Guitar, Benjamin Christopher, Bass Guitar and Karthik Kalyan on Drums. The band had come together at the last minute to fill-in for a late drop-out, and had practiced only two funky songs which they performed so well, that they made a very huge impression. And the audience were loath to let them go. But they did have to, to make way for the Main event of the evening.

    THE VASUNDHARA V QUINTET – What can one say about Vasundhara V, this hugely talented young singer with a voice that flowed like liquid gold and was as malleable, and the band that she got together for the First Hyderabad Jazz Festival, with every member of the band as talented as she was. Karim Ellaboudi, on Keyboard, a headliner in many settings, Pranai Gurung, clearly, a skilled and artistic guitarist, Saurabh Suman, a solid, dependable, harmonic bassist, and Andrew Kanga, the inventive young metronome of a drummer.

    The Vasundhara V Quintet kept the audience rivetted, yet tapping their feet and swaying in their seats to the variety of music that they performed with such lyricism and euphony, from Jazz standards and Bossa Nova, to modern standards. One of the highlights was Vasundhara’s rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, as an inconcievably wonderful, six/eights blues. It was a revelation, that a modern classic like ‘Imagine’ could be treated so unusually and so beautifully. And that was only one of the many wonders of the Vasundhara V Quintet. But like all good things the evening had to come to an end. That was end of the First Hyderabad Jazz Festival. Thank you Osvin for the flawless sound (this is what each and every one of the professional musicians made it point to announce at the end of their sets). 

    This ‘First Hyderabad Jazz Festival’was put together by the confluence of Secunderabad Club, Goethe Zentrum, Hyderabad, and the Hyderabad Western Music Foundation. But this festival of Jazz, would not have been possible without the Swiss organising talent, perseverance and determination of Joe Koster, the brains and backbone of the Festival.     

Thank you everybody, for coming and enjoying yourself as you did.

Pratap Antony

Reporter – Hyderabad Western Music Foundation