Musicians headlining Madras Jazz Festival discuss this city’s obsession with the genre
Silence is as important as sound. You don’t need to be a musicologist to decipher that nebulous statement. All you have to do is head to the upcoming edition of the Madras Jazz Festival. Once there, try and catch Maarten Visser (Netherlands), Sanaea Bubber (Mumbai), and Brian Molley (Scotland) live on stage.
As a listener, one will realise that these celebrated artistes make effective use of the space between the lines. Not literal stillness, but a subtle manner in which each note breathes and rings out. As improviser extraordinaire Miles Davis once stated — ‘It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.’
Maarten, a saxophonist who has been living in India since the ’90s, explains, “In my experience, most folks in this country don’t have go-to references for genres like jazz. Yet, people respond spectacularly to energy and stage presence when such music is performed live.
Due to years of exposure to classical music, audiences here expect a pre-determined structure — a series of phrases will go in a particular direction, build to a crescendo and culminate with a certain note. However, the beauty of jazz lies in its unpredictability.”
Expect further explorations of such notions at this musical gathering as renowned Scottish composer Brian Molley is part of the line-up. His discography — which includes a score called Mouse For Sale for Warner Brother’s Tom and Jerry — is truly fascinating.
Nevertheless, Brian, who has performed everywhere from Harlem to Jodhpur, insists his productions do not fall into the traditional or avant-garde brackets prevalent in the jazz circuit today.
“I think we (the Brian Molley Quartet) draw influences from a wide range of places. Anything goes for us — Western and Indian Classical, Brazilian folk, Indian Classical, or Scottish folk music. All brought together under a jazz banner,” states the innovative artiste, adding, “We aim to make music that will be exciting and high-energy as well as contemplative and delicately poised — something for everyone. There will even be a couple of reimagined Disney classics in there too!”
After six successful editions, some of which showcased legends like Louis Banks and Frank Dubier, this event is now considered a regular calendar fixture by jazzophiles from across the country. Eddie Prithviraj, the organiser of Madras Jazz Festival, is constantly looking at ways to enhance this musical experience.
“I’m always searching for artistes to feature at our festival. Mumbai-based vocalist Vasundhara Vee and Venezuelan soloist Pedro Eustache have long been on my wishlist,” concludes Eddie.