Sunday, June 11, 2006

Chennai Jazz Club

My friend Ashok Gupta, originally from Kolkata and now a full-fledged Chennaite, had been revitalized by me, to go and meet Dr. Gabriele Lendwehr -the director of the well-appointed Max Muller Bhavan here in Nugambakkam, a prime property in virtually the heart of the town some weeks back.

I reached at 10.30am, though the show was slated to start at 11.30am. My friend Dr. Purnima Rao thought I was mad to go so early -but whilst organizing events, it's alway better to reach early than late.

The first one to turn up was a bright and sharp young lady, Anuradha whom I patronized for a while thinking she had come to join the nascent jazz club. When she told me she was from a music channel and her crew was about to materialize, and would I mind giving her some 'sound bytes' [ I like this jargon, sci-fi maestros, we are nearly there...where you always tried to take us...] I froze. Before I could gather my thoughts gone haywire the gang was upon us, straitening my shirt and passing a collar-mike through my shirt, tickling me pink in the process and making me look into the camera, and all that video jazz.

Soon Ashok ambled in, he who ambles around like a tourist on a lifetime vacation, he who never seems to be in a hurry and he who goes around with a mob following him. Well, later on Madhav Chari -Chennai's own brilliant pianist, whose renditions of Duke Ellingtonian classics on 28th April, a day before the giant jazzman's birthday, were a huge treat indeed, came in quarreling with his father. Both guys are 'hyper' or super-hyper to give them a better epithet, and both seem to argue over trifles like a much-married couple. I was treated to five or six of their juicy arguments, in typical high-class Tamil Brahmin style, which I am beginning to isolate very easily now.

Dr. Gabriele came all a fluster, looking hurried and tied up -for her it was a working day she said

Purnima and hubby Sashi also came, waved and settled down. Over 20 persons turned up including Brian, a very soft-hearted guitarist [I talked to him to find that out], good ole Dr. Placid Rodriguez, ex-chief of the atomic research centre near here, and one of the most revered metallurgists. Also Mr. Laxminarayan, the ex-President of Madras Jazz Club [now defunct for perhaps for over a decae], quite a character, came looking uncertain... introduced himself and got lost in the crowd.

Ashok told me later when we were alone, that he went looking around for Max Babi.
Where's she? He asked Ashok.
The mischief-monger Ashok said, there she is sitting, one with the red beard...

The MMB has a fancy plasma screen display which made the DVD look amazingly crisp and clear... there was Diana Krall, my favourite singer, pumping away at her funky piano and singing to a huge audience, Live In Paris. Those who were really into music, despite the people chattering around us, loved the music in snatches. Those who were more into social contact and things, were busy talking in clusters.

Purnima wanted me to ask someone to explain what is Jazz... to begin with. I suggested Madhav Chari -who usually speaks very articulately about these matters. Once he got going, I got worried he may put some people completely off music... since my own experience earlier had been a disappointment. He did well, though well-meaning dad kept interrupting.

Ashok played a little bit of Charles Mingus Dynasty, which I thought was a risk with so many newbies in the audience but it seemed to go well. I noticed the video guy focusing on my feet, tapping in rhythm absentmindedly. There in lies the rub. If the music gets your feet tapping, you are bound to come back for more... that has been the philosophy of our jazz club at Pune, now in its fifth year and growing daily.
Chennai seems all set to rock !
(c)Max Babi


At 1:40 PM, Blogger david raphael israel said...

congrats! (Max at Max Bhavan, one notes); -- so this was for a local "news magazine"? (I mean the video aspect). Many people show up? Seems anyway you're happier with how this one went. Is there a gameplan for some sort of regular / periodic jazz club gathering?


At 7:21 AM, Blogger Max Babi said...

Thanks David, it was fun...I am sorry to have been away for quite some time. Madrassis have agreed overwhelmingly to meet twice a month, something the diehard Puneites didn't like. This sunday we are watching Ella Fitzgerald DVD and I am giving a presentation on Mainstream Jazz...membership has swelled ! Yes there is a gameplan but I'd rather play it by the ear, to borrow a jazz term.

At 4:53 AM, Blogger deever said...

Hey MB

I am Dee(pa). I am born and brought up in Chennai but had lived in many different places ... I have developed an interest for Jazz/Blues music recently ... Like to hear concerts ... and am wondering if there are odd souls like me (esp. for Chennai) who are interested in such pursuits.

Do you think you can help me with details ?
It would be great to know.

Cheers, Dee.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Rufus said...

Was nice reading up this blog. Unfortunately Madhav chari has passed away. Chennai is ripe for jazz now. It's always been. Any takers on gig here. Can help with logistics, sponsors etc.


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