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Jazz is like Indian Classical music

Three questions: Joe Alvarez, Jazz musician

Q. Some say, Jazz is like Indian Classical music because of the improvisation needed in both genres. What is your opinion about the same?
A. Both genres come from a highly disciplined arena. You can’t just become a Jazz player, you have to do lot of riyaz, master your instrument like an Indian classical musician does. It’s only when you master the basics of your instrument that you are able to step out and interpret your own things. Indian classical music is the same. There is a particular format, people learn a particular raga but they don’t sing the raga as it was written. They establish the raga, they let the audience listen to the basic established tune first then they go into the zone of improvisation and finally come back into the tune. It’s the same thing with Jazz, it establishes its introduction, which is the alaap in Classical music, and after the introduction comes the main body of the tune and the improvisation and the various rhythmic changes. After that whole circle, it comes back to the established tune, and then goes out and ends the tune. The methodology is very similar in both Jazz and Indian Classical music.

Joe Alvarez is one of the doyens of Jazz music in India
Joe Alvarez is one of the doyens of Jazz music in India

Q. How is the response when you play at a Jazz concert in the city?
A. I have done three concerts in Pune in the last three months, and each time, youngsters from Pune have rocked the show. I like playing here as the audience in the city likes Jazz. My daughter Shefali and I have planned to organise concerts, with one show named Jazz through Generations.

Q. People from all over the world come to India to learn Indian Classical music. Where do you think Jazz music stands in India, surrounded by Classical and Bollywood music?
A. Jazz is a distinctly different genre of music from one part of the world and Indian Classical music is from another part of the world. Now in this world of modern concepts, both are enjoying the possibilities of learning. Foreigners come to India to learn Indian Classical music whereas students from India are going to Boston and Berkley to graduate in Jazz music. Both have their own fascination and disciplines. In my case, I have mixed Jazz with Classical instruments to underline the uniqueness of both the genres. I have worked with Zakir Hussain on tabla for many shows, I have worked with Sultan Khan and Sabir Khan on Sarangi with regular Jazz instruments. Rahul Sharma on Santoor, Padmashri U Shrinivas on Mandolin, even Selva Ganesh has played with me. So, whenever I do fusion concerts I love to make Jazz and Indian Classical merge together.

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