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Play that flute, Mr Saxophonist

Carl Clements is a renowned saxophonist and flautist who discovered India through music. Tomorrow, he will perform with his longtime associate and friend D Wood along with Hideaki Tokunaga on guitar from Japan and Benny Soans on drums. The unique ensemble will be playing compositions mainly by John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and many others.


Carl Clements playing the Indian flute. Pic Courtesy/ Uchil

The 50-year-old US artiste shares, “I was studying the saxophone and other woodwind instruments at Berklee College of Music. As I was interested in improvisation, I discovered classical Indian music. I enrolled myself at the California Institute of Arts, especially as it had a great Indian teacher, Pannalal Ghosh, who was the disciple of Ustad Allaudin Khan.” He adds, “It was easy for me to pick up the Indian flute. I was already acquainted with the Western flute and other such woodwind instruments.”


Roshan;  Clements playing the Western flut

Fuse that thought
In 1992-93, Clements was in Mumbai to continue his training where he met D Wood. One of his earliest performances was with Ranjit Barot, the talented drummer, where they performed Jazz-oriented compositions. With the flute and the saxophone merging, we questioned if he considered himself playing Fusion and what he thought about the moniker. “In the US, Fusion has nothing to do with Jazz but in India, it tends to be a loose category that people approach with various degrees of seriousness.” Commenting on his personal dabbling, he states, “The common ground can be rhythm although raaga and harmony can be very different.” When we ask about Clements’ observations from two decades onwards, he remarks, “It’s been a mix. The Jazz audience was much more substantial in the 1960s and ’70s. But as Rock started coming in, Jazz waned away. Now, there are no venues for Jazz except NCPA and sometimes, BlueFrog.” Excited about his fellow artiste’s venture, The Bandra Base, as well as the True School of Music, he is looking forward to the future. 


A tete-a-tete with 
D WOOD
D Wood, a multi-instrumentalist and composer for films including Mani Kaul’s Idiot and Nazar; and Dev Benegal’s English, August also heads the initiative The Bandra Base and has spent 20 years in the city. D Wood says that it all started with coming here to study music on a research project on North Indian Classical music. Proud of his project, D Wood shares, “We focus on Jazz and other kinds of music, film screenings, independent song writing, Salsa classes…where people go for the real thing.” Having tremendous respect for Nityanand Haldipur, who was a disciple of Pannalal Ghosh, D Wood believes that Indians tend to neglect their culture whereas people abroad are more appreciative. Clements feels that in America, the situation is similar with Jazz where the Europeans tend to appreciate it more than the Americans.

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