Monday, April 09, 2007

INDO JAZZ SUITE








The Indo-Jazz

After hearing Mathar by Dave Pike and other pieces on a compilation by Gilles Peterson, I understood that Indian music had been mixed together, in an excellent way, with pop but also with jazz. That’s when, like always, I began to get to the bottom of things seeing that both Indian music and jazz were favourites of mine. During this period I was in London visiting some friends and as I wandered about the shops I found myself in front of Honest Johns that is by the underpass in Portobello Road. I remembered that once my friend had told me that you could find some good jazz at H. J…. so I decided to go in. I was in the jazz section that was just inside the front door but in the basement (today the entrance is different) and I started to look through the hundreds of pieces of vinyl. After a while I decided to ask one of the assistants, looking after this section, if they had any jazz mixed together with Indian music. The guy thought for a few seconds and then he got out the gatefold LP’s of John Mayer and Joe Harriott called “Indo-Jazz Suite” and “Indo-Jazz Fusions”. The records had that typical smell / perfume of old vinyl and cardboard sleeves, I asked if I could have a listen and seeing that the price was very high the guy put them on the deck and began to play them. They were very different to what I had heard on the compilation, they were a double quintet of Jazz Musicians and Indian Musicians, the sound was fantastic and very early 60’s jazz flavours! There is no point mentioning that those two pieces of vinyl were the first in a long line of Indo-Jazz vinyl in my possession. I want to talk for a second about John Mayer even if Gabor Szabo, Dave Pike, Wolfgand Dauner, Alan Lorber Orchestra and many others have united Jazz and Indian Music together with some excellent results. John Mayer was born in Calcutta in 1930 and began getting a passion for music right from an early age of seven when he used to play the Violin, he then began to study basic Jazz drum rhythms and started getting into this genre. After winning a purse for studying he arrived in London in 1950 we he studied and composed mixtures of Indian music with Western music and then became part of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra up until 1965. One year earlier the EMI producer Dennis Preston asked him if he could create an Idiom in a jazz key to complete an album that he was working on and Mayer accepted. Soon Preston told Mayer that he had played the piece to Atlantic Records in New York and that they had liked it a lot, enough so that they recommended that he created a piece of work that forged together Jazz and Indian Music. For some time Mayer was thinking about making up a quintet formed of Sitar, Tambura, Harpsichord, Tablas and Flute, the idea of Atlantic was to unite this quintet with that of the saxophone player called Joe Harriott. After one month of writing the LP “Indo-Jazz Suite” was recorded in two days and was released in 1966 in both England and America, it was a success straight away and soon after it was followed by the release of “Indo-Jazz Fusions”. This is the story of how John Mayer created this sound called Indojazz that I will now describe to you in more detail. Indojazz is divided into two suites and the first contains “Contrast”, “Raga Megha” and “Raga Gaud-Saranga” that are based around Raga, a scale of Indian Music that is characterised by ascending and descending patterns that never have less than five notes. The second is composed of “Overture” that instead is much more Jazz based over a rhythm of beats extended to ten. In this direct recording by Mayer the Tablas make the rhythm and the Tambura, a kind of 4 chord Sitar offers the tone whilst the Sitar follows the Raga. After intros in pure Indian style Joe Harriott who was noted for his ‘Alto Sax Free Jazz Attitude’ had no problems following the pattern, just like the pianist Pat Smythe, the bass player Coleridge Goode, the drummer Allan Ganley and also the other musicians. There came an album that was highly structured where the pieces started with Sitar and Tambura sequences and then let enter one by one the other instruments that created that avantguard jazz sound where the East is no longer the East and the West is no longer the West! Peace all over the land.

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