The Welcome return of Bombay’s veteran jazzman Braz Gonsalves heralded the European Jazz Yatra 04. Jason Jones from Chicago exhibited strong chops on the soprano kicking off with "Mr. PC". Backed by an ebullient Tala Paral on piano, and tasteful William Fernandes on drums and the solid sheet anchor Bertie D’Silva on bass guitar,the quintet made a perfect opening for a Braz entry. Tala exhibited complex voicings on the ivories and later handled the soprano with ease. The band was joined by Yvonne as she ran through a set of standards noteworthy being ‘Moonlight in Vermont’. Braz displayed his facility of old on the soprano as he pierced the air with his familiar riffs. A grand finale of the set was a soprano summit with Jason pushing the front while Braz and Tala brought on the flanks, each with their own tonal identity. Young William Fernandes on a neat set of traps and gleaming Zildjians showed he has the right ideas.
Three strings who backed the hand seemed to be a good idea which fell short on execution sounding coarse and unnecessary.
Though called the European Jazz Yatra the highlights were the two Norwegian bands. Two years ago they called it the Norwegian Jazz Yatra with a fabulous vocalist Live Maria Roggen of ‘Come Shine’ This time Live was outdone by Solveig Sletthaghjell who along with her stellar quintet executed a languid jazz vocalese set as taut as a steel wire.
Solveig slow paced through not so standard. standards like ‘You won’t forget me’, ‘So lucky to be loved by you’, ‘My heart belongs to daddy’ and the ‘12th of Never’.
Displaying amazing musical dexterity, Solveig bent and wrapped around notes, in, out, extended, low, high but never straight. Like a 10.00 gymnast she contortioned around the tight rope of a composition slowly, touching it sometimes, caressing it always and displaying a winsome attitude to warm the audience on to her style. Trumpeter Sjur Miljeteig kenny wheelered through the horn spaces.. Johannes Eick’s stick bass and Peder Kjelsbi’s drums stretched the slow motion ably. If Solveig is a music school graduate Diana Krall is in kindergarten.
While the Solveig band was in, out and slow the next Norwegian band was right up there and fast. The Real Thing emerged as the perfect foil playing hard driving, brisk paced, handclapping, straight ahead jazz led by Paul Wagnberg who took off on the Hammond B3 where Jimmy Smith seemed to have left it. The band tore through a rollicking set of their own compositions rocking the house down. Paul, like Dizzy and Cannonball loves to sneak in excerpts from standards in his improvisation. Fleeting use of the pitch bender added colour..
Just a foursome, the band sounded like a powerhouse of ten as they blew through the roof carrying the audience with them. With swing and rhythm came amazing control over chord progression and scales. While guitarist Staffan William Olson was at his ripping best. Borre Dalhaug was all over the stage with his drumsticks, tapping the floor & the audio system. The Real Thing proved they are Real Power. When all else about this Yatra is forgotten these 2 bands will be remembered by Jazz lovers of the city.
Day 2 showcased Indian youth groups Magish Market with Harmeet Manseta keyboards, Gino Banks drums & Sheldon D’Silva bass. Harmeet has molded himself around Kenny Barron and James Williams while his first love seems to be Herbie Hancock judging by his affinity for the latter’s compositions. Harmeet effortless right hand is full of riffing 16th notes flitting across the keys while his left steadily anchors up and down.
The band breezed through a set of standards while Gino displayed high energy and great variety on a drum set with a double kettle and snares and five cymbals. Sheldon walloped his Bass guitar to hard rock rhythms much to the audience’s delight.
While good talent is no doubt evident in the members of this trio international exposure and formal training seems necessary to take them to the next level.
The next young Indian trio Global Unity displayed cohesiveness, and maturity , showing up as a trio of class though they had never publicly performed before. Up front was the formally trained Sanjay Divecha who performed like a guitarist’s guitarist with delicate nuances across organized chord progressions. The more one hears Sanjay the more one should enjoy him.
Adrian D’Souza the other internationally exposed musician on traps showed plain good drumming taste. Strong and distinctive, never obtrusive and with something new to state on each song. Adrian can make the drum set sing, blow or just touch you. A combination of standards with their own compositions made a good mix. Adrian also seems an excellent composer with his interesting ‘Recycle’. Sanjay’s ‘Untitled’ was equally innovative. But, outstanding was Karl Peter’s ‘Living Strangely, ‘ an exquisite ballad where Karl emoted through a plaintive solo of eighth note variants each different like the filigree on a work of mughal marble Karl’s 5 string bass tone added to the quality.
Saskia Laroo and her band brought up the last set. Kicking a sequined pair of legs, armed with waist bound electronics. Saskia blew her way through her horn into the crowd on a vehicle of hip hop, funk and what else. Aided by keyboard player Warren Byrd , her vehicle ploughed through ‘Body and Soul’. Encouraged , she thereafter proceeded to take on Miles compositions and after thrashing into ‘Four’ decided it was opportune to desecrate. ‘Round Midnight’ She then flirted with ‘The Boy from Ipanema ‘, before consigning ‘So What’ to the heap.
Day three brought on Louis Banks with a fusion band and a pot pourri of sound with one male vocalist who clearly did not belong in a jazz setting .Several Banks compositions were well structured and conceived and had energetic rhythm layered below unison themes extending across long passages;but they tended to be repetitive and dulled rather than enliven the senses. Banks put some young talent on show, notable being Sanjay Joseph on guitar. Suzanne the female vocalist had a good range and feel for a song but trilled in the upper register too often.
Peter Weniger closed the Yatra with a power display of tenor sax calisthenics. Backed by a high voltage bass, drum combo. Peter cut across, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Dave Liebman and Charles Lloyd (even Charles’ mannerisms as he rocked back and forth).In the end he was entirely himself ripping across improvisation to catapult the audience to new heights of ecstasy. What makes his tenor trio special is that while he is in the jazz idiom his bass and drum accompaniment cross all barriers. Romanian Decebal Badila on bass was a tremendous talent,. easily the best bass player of the Yatra. Peter’s trio was a fitting finale for a jazz concert making the trip worthwhile on that day only for his group.