Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Madhav Chari Trio... and several reasons to be cross

The Madhav Chari Trio performed last night at Someplace Else at The Park in Calcutta.

At the outset, I must say the good things before I vent my anger. The Trio played wonderfully well. Hard Bop, with generous doses of Latin elements in a repertoire of covers always goes down well with an audience. Madhav, who gave up a future in mathematics in the USA to learn and play jazz, is a pianist who has studied the masters with enthusiasm, and this showed. Oscar Peterson is obviously a major influence. Madhav's arrangements ably showcased the incredibly talented Karl Peters on bass and Adrian D'souza on drums. For 90 minutes, without the benefit of a perfect sound system, they held the attention of a Saturday night pub audience, most of whom are starved for good jazz played live. If you were not there, and have never heard him before, you missed something.

Now that I've got done with the raves, it's time for the rant.

First of all, SPE sucks for sound. Either they should spend a few more crores to install a proper sound system and repair the acoustics of that place, or they should rebuild SPE from scratch with the performance of live music uppermost in their mind. And 750 ml of beer for Rs 175? 60 bucks for a cola? That's highway robbery! Or is it capitalism at its finest?

Now we come to MC who deigned to grace the occasion as the international standard jazz pianist India has on offer. I mean, we are ever so grateful to the man for returning to the country of his origin and giving us a taste of his talents. Understandably, by being so gracious he must also be forgiven for being a bumptious dyspeptic. In a thin, reedy voice which he, to our extreme pleasure, did not employ for song, Madhav informed the audience in his opening announcement that we should all quieten down as this was not a rock concert, and he was going to play some serious stuff. That's like offering street food at a five star banquet and asking us to eat it with silver cutlery.

Hey dickhead! If this were a rock concert, would you be playing? And if you wanted concert hall ambience, why the hell did you agree to play in a pub? I do not like musicians treating listeners as if we were slimy things under a rock. And if your music is danceable, like the original composers intended it to be, then we will make some noise. Quite a bit of it, actually. In fact, from what I understand, jazz musicians fed off the raucous energy of their audience and their creativity thrived because of it. Madhav, if you wanted that sort of hush, you should have been playing Beethoven and Bach in a white tie at Carnegie Hall or somewhere appropriately elitist for you. Don't give us that crap, when you have the lighted signs of the whisky sponsors glowing behind you as a constant reminder of who gave us the opportunity to listen to your performance.

Karl and Adrian, equally talented musicians of India, never gave off that attitude. They have played far and wide in this country and they know what audiences are like. The standing Karl's ever-smiling face was always a pleasure to watch, and his occasional grimaces as his fingers did amazing things to the fretboard and five strings, guided my enjoyment of the music. I could see neither Adrian or Madhav, except for distorted reflections on the stained-glass ceiling, but Adrian kept the momentum intact as my tapping feet and swaying body confirmed.

I'd be happy to listen to Madhav Chari time and again and even pay good money for the shows, but hey arsehole, get off your high horse and come back to earth! Music is not your sole preserve, and needs to be shared. If you don't agree, go back to Busherica, or lock yourself up in your loo and wank off on the ivories.


nancy said...

love the jazz downloads on your website.. and u write so well.. keep blogging!

patrix said...

thanks nancy.. its good to hear from amnother jazz fan!

Rahul said...

Sorry for late comment. I was looking for coverage of Madhav's current tour and saw this...

Amusing rant. Yes, Madhav does have some "attitude", but he's right about the be quiet and attentive bit. At some bars and pubs the music is just background and noise is expected: that's where journeymen may start out. (Eg, Arthur's Tavern in NY -- a fun place.) But at the really serious jazz bars (The Village Vanguard, Blue Note, Birdland etc), where the best people play, the audience is attentive and respectful. Drinks are served, but silently; glasses are not clinked. Of course, Madhav didn't have to point these things out. If the music is good, the audience will be too.

Anyway, as you'd know, he's on tour again and gave an incredible performance in Chennai -- I've heard him before and expected something good but this blew me away. Look forward to your review of his Kolkata show.

patrix said...

O, absolutely Rahul! Madhav's a brilliant pianist and there's no gainsaying that. but... never forget jazz was born in honkytonk bars and really raucous places. that's where it got the flavour, the texture, the feel if you like. most of the great jazz musicians lived their lives resembling the atmosphere of those places they made their music in.

the sooner we stop treating jazz like a form of serious classical music we will truly start making/ listening to jazz! that's the part about MC i hate. if jazz swings and bops it is also the listeners who are doing it along with the musicians. that's jazz - fertile interaction!

till then, rock on!

Anonymous said...

Thats really one of the best feedbacks on a concert i have read in a long time. Truly an emotional one and verty much matter of fact.I am from Chennai & would like to know about two popular guitarists from Kolkata, Sumit Ramachandran & Amit. How would you rate them. Would love to see your reviews on Kolkata bands Hip Pockets & Skinny Alley & other bands. These are the only two bands from Kolkata I have seen perform at Chennai.

Keep up the good work mate...Cheerz,Adrian

p@tr!(k said...

adrian, thank you!
in my opinion, sumit ramachandran and amyt dutta are two among of the three most skilled and talented guitar players in this country who can straddle styles, genres and feel with equal ease. the third is aj - arjun sen of the trio hft from delhi. hip pocket is a pub band who are tight and talented but do no originals, so listening to them is for a good time feel. in contrast, skinny alley who do plenty of originals, and have their second album out - songs from the mooney boom - have reached a point in their career where they no longer play for an audience. they're so into playing for themselves and are so cynical about audiences that i no longer feel like listening to their music regardless of how good they may think it to be.
but calcutta has some great musicians and bands so if you do visit check them all out!

Anonymous said...

Oh, to savour vitriol doled out in a peg measure and that, from a jazz fan. If only people like you reviewed music more often than the half-assed free-whiskey-swigging rent-a-whore types who write the effete music columns in our rags.

I write for Thermal And A Quarter. And I'm passionate about what passes for rock just the way you seem to be about jazz. I've been documenting the scene for over a decade and I had reason enough to feel incensed at an article about Indian rock (on MTV's new site, of all places) that had entirely ignored Bangalore (and Thermal And A Quarter) where a lot of the real original Indian rock music began -- the other "big bands" in Mumbai and Delhi just grew their hair and played covers.

p@tr!(k said...

bijoy - thanks for the thumbs-up!

i'm pretty passionate about music generally. it's because rock went off in directions i didn't like is when i began to listen to and love jazz. and just for the record, TAAQ is definitely one of my favourite bands. heard them live just once maybe 2 years ago in calcutta and i have their website bookmarked. they are definitely doing some great music. i also (occasionally)write about rock and the music scene specifically in calcutta.

send me alink of your writing. would love to read!