On International Jazz Day, four of the country’s top Jazz musicians share memories of their first performance in the city
I remember singing in my first show ever in Mumbai, the songs Tobacco Road and Georgia On My Mind which are by Ray Charles. These were songs I would sing at my auditions in New York. It was amazing to see the theatre erupting in applause to them. These Jazz standards are some of the greatest songs ever written, and to be able to present them to a new generation, and keep them alive, is a great feeling.
My first long-term contract was in 1971 at Blow-up, at The Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay. Needless to say, it was a highly electrified atmosphere. I was playing with a band called Atomic Forest back then, performing Hard Rock to a packed house every night. Blow-up was the premier destination for the best bands in the country and we were one of the first few privileged ones. Then, from 2000 onwards, I started doing Jazz-Rock.
The first time I played the drums, I was in school. A drummer was needed for some talent contest and I put my hand up. After I finished playing, I realised that something had changed within me. It was a subtle shift in my consciousness. I found out where I could get a drum set and I’d take the bus from outside my house to the shop and just look at the drum set for about a week, till I finally mustered the courage to tell my mother to buy them for me. I took her to the shop, set the drums up and played for her. That first time I played was amazing and I keep chasing that feeling. Some nights, I get lucky. The shopkeeper gave me a discount of Rs 200 because he liked my playing.
The first time I played in Mumbai was at Not Just Jazz By The Bay with my band, Nexus, around 2001. Crowd response was mixed as we played a set of original fusion music, which probably confused the club’s audience. But they liked our renditions of cover songs by Sting and others. We were probably not at our technical best on the instruments and tried to play music ahead of our ability, but it was a good thing as it was the beginning of all of our musical journeys.
These artistes will perform along with many other Jazz musicians today at 7 pm AT blueFROG, Lower Parel.