Madhav Chari on feeling the music and what a jazz novice must listen to
You are not meant to understand jazz; you are meant to enjoy it. Renowned city-based jazz pianist, Madhav Chari’s words are music to my untrained ears. Ahead of his concert this weekend, on one of his rare public performances, he says, “I am not expecting you to understand the technical aspect; I want you to be moved—by the foot-tapping sound of swing, by the emotion behind the blues and the romantic ballads, and by the chemistry and energy on stage.”
Famously controversial about his stance that India doesn’t have many jazz musicians worth their salt (“they can’t deliver, they just don’t feel it”), he states that many of the international artistes we listen to in the city are quite bad, too. “The French and German musicians play a post-modern jazz that is all intellectual. I’ve heard music from the source, from great New Orleans musicians like Wynton Marsalis and Kenny Barron. So when I listen to these artistes, it’s much like listening to real Carnatic music in sabhas, and then going to Toronto to listen to a gharana of Indian music there,” he laughs.
Keeping up tradition
Though he keeps away from the club scene, because “the audience is completely undisciplined”, and limits his performances so that he doesn’t overexpose himself, Madhav Chari has been consistently conducting jazz workshops and outreach programmes since 2003—to introduce people to “this great tradition of music and what its energy is like”. In fact, he’s already done over 100, and now he plans to write a book on jazz for the Indian audience. “I play jazz like the living tradition it is,” he signs off. And if you don’t know what that means, we suggest you head to Museum Theatre tomorrow at 7 pm, to see him perform with drummer Jeoraj George and bassist Naveen Kumar.
The other side of music
The most important book written on jazz music, according to Madhav Chari, is Considering Genius—Writings in Jazz by Stanley Crouch. A series of articles on the great musicians, and even movies on them, it is an engrossing read. But if you’d rather watch a movie, try out Ken Burns’ 10-part series, Jazz, with great fotage of artistes like Billie Holiday.
The jazz wishlist
Count Basie’s The Complete Atomic Basie and Count Basie Swings and Joe Williams Sings: Two critically-acclaimed, bold works of big-band recordings
Oscar Peterson’s We Get Request: Great piano and solid rhythmic blend
Duke Ellington’s 70th Birthday Concert: A live album, it gives an idea of how a great jazz band sounds in concert
John Coltrane’s John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman: Great jazz vocals counterpointed by great
Stan Getz’s Serenity and Anniversary: A great example of the living tradition that Madhav Chari follows
Surya Praphulla Kumar