Teamwork Arts Friday, July 28th, 2017

Those Who Made the Music: Jazz and its Greats

I had heard Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World long before I heard the word “jazz”. I had heard it a friend’s place and for an ear trained on old and new film music and a smattering of Carnatic, it was a new, weightless, truly soothing sound. (If you have heard 20-minute alapanas in South Indian kutcheris, your will understand what I mean by weightless!).

It was much later that I came to know that he is the jazz “stalwart” that he is. I had read about his body of work, heard his numbers played in various places, but What a Wonderful World is special, for the window it opened for me to this part of the world.

My introduction to Ella Fitzgerald was less of an accident. Her Dream a Little Dream of Me is only but a jump away from What a…. And if I had to pick one jazz singer I would hear over and over – it is her.

I went back in time and discovered Duke Ellington. I have certainly not heard enough of him to cover his multi-decade career in a few lines, but the energy of his compositions is infectious. These are songs to tap your feet to. He even takes a song called Melancholia and suffuses it with a still, dormant energy: it is his special kind of genius, I think, to achieve that. It is his genius at play again, when a cover of his Cotton Club Stomp plays on the playlist of someone born a decade after he died.

Another artiste who is still very relevant long after he is gone is John Coltrane. His music is markedly different from other jazz artistes. His sounds are harder and his tracks are still surprising. While there have been the likes of Kenny G, who came after him, it is easy to see why Coltrane is still so affecting. I did not revisit Songbird after half a dozen replays, I think, but My Favourite Things is just one of that.

Joshua Redman is probably the only current jazz artiste who I ‘follow’. Some of the tracks on The Bad Plus Joshua Redman are amazing.

But if I had to choose only one – I will take Ella’s All the things you are, thank you!

Ramya Camasamudram

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