Jazz legend Joe Alvares is back in the bay and is going to curate a series of performances by Indian and International Jazz artistes at the St Regis Mumbai.
I met him and some of the performers last evening at Luna Nudo on the 37th floor, sumptuous with stuffed scarlet sofas and an eagle’s eye view of the city. The plush black stage and gorgeous chandeliers straight out of an F Scott Fitzgerald novel seemed just the right setting for some sonorous strains of music. Hearing Joe speak is music to a Jazz-lovers’ ears too. While he waxes nostalgic about the city’s music makers down the years, he is very optimistic about the future of “melodious, meaningful music” in Mumbai.
Joe says, “Jazz is unique in the sense that you can take any song and, instead of just parroting it, you add your own innovation and improvisation to it. This way, each performance has something new to offer, and no two shows will ever be the same.”
According to him, the best years for Jazz in Mumbai were in the ’70s. “Jazz was being played in so many places and audiences were open to intellectual music. In the last few decades, we’ve been reduced to listening to just deejay music from a little box. I haven’t performed in India for so long because I didn’t want to be part of the mediocrity. But I feel that Indian audiences are now ready to listen to more evolved and evocative music. They’re more exposed to global culture, they’re more educated. I’m sure they will appreciate the vibrancy and versatility of a live performance,” he smiles.
Sarosh Nanavaty, who is especially well known thanks to her powerhouse performances on the TV show The Stage, introduced her fellow musicians, who are all looking forward to having such a perfect place to perform and discerning audiences to applaud them.
Sunila Duggal, Director of Marketing and Communications at St Regis Mumbai, speaks eloquently about how Jazz and the St Regis traditions are closely linked right from the era when the world’s first St Regis hotel in New York opened up its terrace to Jazz legends of the day in the 1920s. They had everyone, from Count Basie to Duke Ellington, playing to intimate gatherings. Much like what the hotel has planned for its Mumbai version of Jazz Legends at St Regis series which starts on February 1 and will be on twice a month on Wednesdays initially.
With this fantastic initiative, as well as Bonobo and Cafe Zoe and a few other spaces often organising Jazz nights and ticketed performances being offered at the NCPA for local Jazz ensembles, we seem to be witnessing a gradual revival of Jazz by the bay.