Monsoon Jazz with The Sharik Hasan New York Quartet -
Photo Impressions of a great evening at the Marriott Convention Center - 3rd July 2014
Write up by Pratap Antony:
The Sharik Hasan New York Quartet
Sharik Hasan – Piano
Philippe Lemm – Drums
Marco Zenini - Bass
Pawan Benjamin – Saxophone & Bansuri
During the concert, ‘Monsoon Jazz’, for the ‘Monsoon Regatta’ while listening to the Sharik Hasan Quartet at the Marriot Convention Center, Hyderabad, on the 3rd of July, one was struck by how all of Sharik Hasan’s compositions were so like Sonata’s. Not only that, each of the musicians who took a solo in the course of the tunes, whether it was Sharik on piano, or Pawan Benjamin on Tenor saxophone, or Marco Zenini, on Upright Bass, or Philippe Lemm on drums, they all, like the great musicians that they were, soloed in the sonata form. Yes that’s true.
The Sonata form, in Jazz? Yes of course, though Sonata is a western classical term, simply meaning ‘sound’, for instrumental music. The Sonata form is a pattern of organising a musical composition: Introducing a theme or main melody; revealing the main melody clearly and developing it; transiting to variations of the theme; concluding the exposition logically, and then, recapitulating the main theme with slight alterations. And, when one thinks about it, it is the most logical way to go. All forms of music, whether it is Western classical music, Hindustani classical, or Carnatic classical music, all these forms of music use the Sonata form or structure in their music. That is, they all follow a logical pattern of exposition, opposition, intensification, and resolution.
The Sharik Hasan New York Quartet performed nine tunes, out of which three were Jazz standards; the other six were Sharik’s compositions. Each of Sharik’s compositions was a single movement Sonata, though, in Western classical music, a composition is usually, but not always, divided into at least three clear movements.
We all know Jazz is partly planned and partly spontaneous music. So Jazz needs to follow a highly defined plan and a precisely written melodic structure, and it all has to be arranged to make good music, and since there could be more than one melody instrument playing together along with a rhythm section, all the instruments have to be in perfect harmony at all times. So it is very difficult to play the spontaneous or improvised sections and still be in perfect harmony. It needs musicians of very high intelligence and very high musical and technical calibre to play Jazz. And every one of the Sharik Hasan Quartet had all these qualities. And all the musicians in the quartet followed the Sonata form in each of their solos. They played the melody, they played variations of it that opposed it, intensified it and resolved their solos in a logical conclusion. And it was all done in perfect harmony.
The first piece was called ‘Onward’ by Sharik Hasan. The second was also a Sharik composition called ‘Jack-o-Lantern’, where the pianist and the band showed enormous control over this dense but radiant composition, Sharik’s intro and development of the theme on the piano led to Pawan Benjamin on Tenor Sax taking a lyrical solo; and the bass player Marco Zenini played on his upright bass so melodiously that the bass was as good as a lead instrument, and all the time, the drummer played with flair and good taste, it was a joy to watch him play.
The third tune they played was a Jazz standard, ‘Take Five’. The quartet did a very unusual arrangement of this piece with a brilliant piano intro and with some beautifully executed solos by saxophonist Pawan Benjamin and the drummer Philippe Lemm.
The fourth tune was an untitled composition by Sharik Hasan dedicated to the monsoon season. Sharik’s piano intro to the tune was so suggestive, one could almost feel the rain, this was an evocative composition that was written and developed very well and the quartet showed complete and yet soft control of this composition. A suggested name could be ‘Mellow Monsoon’, or ‘Mellow Moods of Rain’!
The fifth was ‘Moments Notice’, best known as a ‘Coltrane’ tune. This was a well balanced performance by the Quartet.
The sixth was again a Sharik Hasan composition called ‘Hymn’. This too was a very beautiful composition, very devotional, very beautifully structured and arranged and this gave a good work-out to the drummer, Philippe Lemm, who used this piece to showcase his mastery and empathy with this piece of music - on the drums, sometimes using his brushes, sometimes mallets, and his sticks, to coax and shift rhythms and patterns and make use of the whole range of sounds and dynamics on the drum set; to watch him play was itself a joy!
The seventh was a Jazz standard called ‘When I fall In Love’. The Quartets’ take on this composition was true-to-form, well arranged and well executed.
The eighth tune was Sharik’s composition, called ‘Confluence’. This was a sort of tour-de-force for the band and showed each one of the musicians for their expertise and skill and their proficiency at their instrument. And they were so marvellously proficient! They were all in-the-zone on this piece, right from the martial sounding drums and bass intro, to the well structured and melodic sax solo by Pawan Benjamin, to Shariks’ imaginative piano outing, or the bassist and the drummer in full flow, playing with such creative artistry.
Though it was a one movement piece (sonata), one could feel the different moods and movements the composition went through, sounding very often like an Indian classical work. And it was - sort of - because though composed in the idiom of Jazz, it was a modal composition, where the music is based on a set of notes rather than the typical chord patterns that most Western music is based on. So if there was an Indian feel to it, and this was because it was based on a modal scale, just as an Indian classical Raga is. Sharik announced that this composition of his was based on George Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’. Though he had turned it on its head and made it like something Gershwin would never have thought of!
The ninth tune was another Sharik composition named ‘Odyssey’. This was another sonata in a single movement, but we could feel the different movements as the composition unfolded. The composition started with Pawan Benjamin playing the intro on a bamboo flute, a bansuri, and he played it so surprisingly well. It is not easy for a Western oriented musician to play the bansuri like it is meant to be played. It needs an Indian classical music mindset and feeling to play it the way it should be played. And Pawan did it, like he was born to it. Perhaps he was!
Anyway, this too was a highly developed composition on which every musician could show his chops, alone and in tandem. So we were treated to wonderful piano solos with an empathetic bass creating the right touches of harmony; there was the amazing bass solo, with the bassists’ dazzling, yet harmonious sound, on the bass. His melodious bass solo sounding out a challenge to all bassists for his dazzling technical ability and imaginative playing. The drummer too, played an inspired and inspiring solo shifting and changing rhythms, and accompanied the others so sympathetically and well, especially in this tune with Pawan’s sax, playing in perfect sync in the rapid glissandos that they did together. Suffice it to say that Sharik is a major composer/arranger and his piano playing is world class.
And that brought an end to the evening! And that was a memorable evening of world class music by this quartet of world class musicians.
This is not the end of this report, because it is not the complete report of the music of the evening. This music report really should have started with a tribute to the great bunch of amateur Jazz musicians from Hyderabad that opened for the Sharik Hasan New York Quartet.
This band was called Jazzed Friends, an eight piece band with a four piece horn section. And they played an enthusiastic and rousing set of Jazz standards and they played their hearts out, making the audience of Hyderabad proud of its first Jazz band with a horn section in the city since the 1960’s.
The Jazzed friends are Dennis Powell, a school music teacher, on Piano. Triveni Sunkara, a student, on Electric Bass. Kartik Kalyan an IT Consultant, on Drums. Shakila Dausi, a corporate trainer, on vocals. Humayun Mirza, a businessman, on Trumpet. George Hull, a medical Doctor, on Saxophone. Raphaelle Courtois, a Marketing manager, on Clarinet. Joe Koster, HR Consultant, on Trombone.
The Jazzed Friends performed four well arranged ‘set pieces’. The first one was ‘Take the A Train’. They next did a vocal ‘Just Friends’, with Shakila joining in and taking up the vocal duties. The song turned out well. ‘My Funny Valentine’ was next, followed by ‘You Can’t Take That Away From Me’. It was a pleasure to hear a local jazz band with a horn section which sounded really good. And it was a delightful to hear the zeal with which the horn section punctuated the music with fanfares and syncopated rhythmic pattern. All the musicians did a creditable job.
That takes care of all the music that was performed. A good evening of music! Perhaps, a great evening of music! Very fulfilling!
Reporting for Hyderabad Western Music Foundation.
It was raining music last night.
write-up by Vijay Marur:
It was the Monsoon Regatta…and a fitting finale, an evening of Monsoon Jazz. The Sharik Hasan Quartet, no less. With the effervescent Philippe Lemm, the Jazz Drummer who is in love with his percussive companions and has no inhibitions in showing it. With Marco Zenini who with his expressive face and emotive fingers is known to ask audiences to ‘Cello…ik baar, phir say…ajnabi ban jaaye hum dono’. And of course Pawan Benjamin who shows you a million ways to make love to a saxophone.
And they put up a wonderful performance last night at the Marriott. Original Sharik Hasan compositions including one that a dear Bengali like me called “Tapar Tupur” after the monsoon. And a few classics including the almost pedestrian Take 5.
Yes, the Quartet was a lot of pleasure. But there was a preamble that was all about pride.
And yes, I am talking of the newly formed group/ensemble ‘Jazzed Friends’. Joe Koster, Dennis Augustine Powell, Raphaelle Courtay, Humayun Mirza, Triveni Sunkara, the inimitable Shaquella Jay and the unforgettable Kartik Kalyan…I do hope I have the names right.
While Shankar and Maya had indeed tried to give blossoming space to the Charminar Jazz Collective and others, the Jazz Bands often dispersed when their imported talent left for foreign lands. In fact it was but a year back when someone told Joe Koster and the Hyderabad Western Music Foundation that they did not think Hyderabad could put together any Jazz team of significance.
A year later they are proved wrong. An eight member team that is still growing. The brass section is showing signs of multiplication. Strings are being heard in many quarters. I can hear the violins…Astrid?
Yes, I felt pride when Jazzed Friends opened the show with four select numbers…and then let Sharik Hasan take centre stage. There was dignity and grace in the way they played for a short while. They knew that the crowds were waiting for the band from ‘New York’…but they decided to warm the cockles of the audience’s hearts by giving them a dose of mood music.
The band was appreciated, though I still feel that Shaquella’s Jazz Vocals were lost in the microphone. Joe Koster on his slidy instrument, George Hull on his never obtrusive Sax. And the oh so unassuming bassist who sat down in a corner and simply bassled. All of them were wonderful.
Congrats to the HWMF, the Hyderabad Western Music Foundation
. Congrats to the team. Thanks also to Suheim Sheikh
, the man behind the monsoon
A lovely evening…made lovelier with the delicious support of Kingfisher, Pitar’s and my very own favourite Blender’s Pride. Write-up by Vijay Marur
Jazzed friends (photo courtesy Rajiiv)