Indo-Jazzwise, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London

14. 6. 2008 | Rubriky: Articles,Live reviews

[by Ken Hunt, London] Well before the first of Jazzwise‘s sequence of Indo-Jazz-related pieces began running, before the first interview was done, the idea of delivering more than column inches formed part of the discussions. And it happened, thanks also to the concert promoters, Serious. “Dedicated to the new directions in Indo-jazz ,” as Jazzwise‘s editor Jon Newey put it from the stage, it happened over two house-full nights, on 29 and 30 May 2008 in the cavern-like rather than cavernous basement of a pizza chain’s Soho jazz den. Each of the four acts, namely the Stephano D’Silva Band and Andy Sheppard and Kuljit Bhamra – both appeared on the Friday – and The Teak Project and the Arun Ghosh Sextet – who appeared the next night – represented and revealed the vitality of difference within today’s Indo-jazz genre in its British manifestation. We witnessed different approaches, styles, phrase books, instrumentation and dynamics.

Indo-Jazzwise’s opening act was in many ways a tribute to the Goan guitarist Amancio D’Silva (1936-1996). His son, Stephano D’Silva opted in the main to reprise his father’s repertoire with material including Goa, Ganges, What Maria Sees and Jaipur. The quartet comprised Stephano D’Silvia on electric guitar and vocals, Achilleas A. on trumpet, John Edwards on double-bass and Thomas White on kit drums. D’Silvia’s guitar style has an edge and sonorities that are slightly out of fashion; you just don’t hear that old San Francisco sound much nowadays. It was laid-back but also edgy. And if you had to pick one composition from the set to illustrate that, it would have to be his father’s Stephano’s Dance – named after Amancio D’Silva’s middle child. Since brothers, unlike fathers, don’t have to be even-handed, the tribute to his younger daughter Song for Francesca failed to get into the set, while What Maria Sees – the Maria in question being Stephano D’Silva’s older sister whose voice piped up “I’m here” on cue – did get a look-in. Ganges was gorgeous evoking on Indian brass band music at times. It even went into a drum solo. And Jaipur (“It’s a rocker”) sounded fresh and green-grass new. Hiram (“Hiram was an old friend of my dad’s – played mean guitar too”) started with a glitch when D’Silva couldn’t locate the poem My Father’s Home, which he had intended to preface the performance with, but they recovered. A Street In Bombay and Your House rounded off an excellent set. A band waiting to be recorded.

The saxophone-tabla duo Andy Sheppard and Kuljit Bhamra produced a different sort of Indo-jazz altogether and something on its margins. In a more world music vein, Sheppard has collaborated with the sitarist Baluji Shrivastav with Re-Orient while Bhamra has collaborated with Alwynne Pritchard on their jointly credited Subterfuge/Invitro. Sheppard and Bhamra have also collaborated in a bigger ensemble – whose work I don’t know. This duo was, however, a totally unknown quantity and they lived up to expectations of the unknown. From the opening Bye Bye, Sheppard introduced electronics – replaying and looping phrases, feeding off his own soprano saxophone lines and ‘accompanying himself’. Similarly Dancing Man And Woman showed they were in very different Indo-jazz territory with tabla and percussion. One of the evening’s highlights was Dear Prudence. The melody snaked out of the grass. With its historical links with the Beatles, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence, it made, so to speak, any number of Indo-connections. Radio Play, the next piece, involved trapping a radio broadcast, tapping into it, swirling it round the mouth and through the embouchure. This particular night the loop was voices; as Sheppard announced, “There’s no music on the radio.” The improvisations went into birdcall later in the performance. The first of two encores – “a drop of the Irish” – featured soprano sax masquerading as Uillean pipes on Kiss The Bride and they concluded with a Jim Pepper tune, Malynia, with Sheppard on tenor sax. What shone out was that there was nothing pre-conceived or pre-packaged about the duo’s music. As Sheppard remarked at one point, “That was pretty cosmic – was for me anyway.” Live, they spontaneously blurred traditional elements of jazz and northern Indian music with chance elements and electronics without it becoming a mishmash.

The Teak Project was the first of the mini-festival’s four acts with an album to their name – their The Teak Project (First Hand FHR02, 2008). Their set might be said to have been the one closest to ‘traditional’ Indo-jazz. It had sitar and tabla, courtesy of Jonathan Mayer and Neil Craig respectively, as part of its instrumentation, for example. The trio’s sound tends towards the chamber end of Indo-jazz with, for example on Without A Doubt, thanks to Justin Quinn’s guitar, a touch of My Goal’s Beyond-era John McLaughlin. (His mother was McLaughlin’s first wife but that is incidental and pre-prehistory as far as Quinn’s or The Teak Project’s music is concerned.) They opened with Deliver Me off the album, a melodic statement that teased imminent tabla pyrotechnics in its build-up but cleverly kept the audience waiting and wanting more. Emily, named after Mayer’s daughter born just after his father, the composer and violinist John Mayer, was killed in a road traffic accident in March 2004, is one of Jonathan Mayer’s compositions. Live and as never before, it struck me as a portrait of a very serious little girl, so much so that afterwards I put that take on interpreting it to its composer. He admitted Emily is suffused with thoughts about his father – incidentally a talker whose amphetamine mouth’s off-button was broken at birth. On a note of new arrivals, Craig’s new composition Due added to the post-The Teak Project repertoire. The title’s spelling came from its composition whilst awaiting the birth of his first child – his daughter Lace – on 11 May 2008. The Teak Project has a rosy glow about them and to discover that they are road-testing the first of their new compositions was wonderful news. The only downside to the performance was that tables and sightlines made it hard to see them on stage from many angles because Mayer and Craig played cross-legged and Quinn sat on a chair.

Like Northern Namaste (Camoci Records CAMOC1001, 2008), Ghosh’s debut album, the Arun Ghosh Sextet opened with Aurora. Unlike the recording, the piece did not fade out. Over the course of this wondrous calling card, Aurora included clarinet solos and melodic consolidations from Ghosh himself, a tenor sax break from Idris Rahman (no slipping from soprano to tenor for him) and a piano solo from Kishon Khan. The second piece, Longsight Lagoon – Longsight being a district in Manchester – came across as a fun piece to play, replete with possibilities. On it, in modal terms and inflections Khan’s piano was definitely more Aziza Mustafa Zadeh than V. Balsara or Jnan Prakash Ghosh. To translate more Azerbaijani modal than Indian. Deshkar (‘helpfully’ illuminated by Ghosh’s “an Indian scale from India”) and Bondhu (derived from Bengali boatmen’s folksong) preceded the blast-away Uterine – another birth reference – one of the top-notch compositions in his portfolio. The Sextet’s other musicians were Liran Donin on double-bass, the standing Nilesh Gulhane on tabla and fellow Mancunian Dave Walsh on kit drums and percussion, especially on Deshkar (Love In The Morning). Over 45 minutes or whatever it was, Ghosh displayed extraordinary charisma and musicianship and a consistently riveting compositional skill, born out of composing for theatre. The sextet proved its worth over and over again. When there was a sound glitch with Donin’s amp at the beginning of Uterine (one to hear before you die), piano, tenor and drums covered in such a way that if you had had your eyes closed it would have sounded as if was just Indo-jazz vamping into an introduction.

Ken Hunt is the author of John Mayer’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and the extensive article on the history of Indo-jazz “Indo-Jazzwise – Meeting of the Spirits” in the June 2008 issue of Jazzwise.

For more information about Jazzwise visit; for The Teak Project visit; and for Arun Ghosh and

From top to bottom, the photographs are Andy Sheppard and Kuljit Bhamra (Ken Hunt), Arun Ghosh (Santosh Sidhu) and The Teak Project (Santosh Sidhu).

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