Sad news


Hi, and thanks for the update. Wonderful to know you got so much great material. Sadly, we lost Anto just a little while ago. He developed gangrene in one leg which had to be amputated, and I guess his heart couldn’t take it. He had a heart attack and passed away. I just got to hear of this, and was planning to write and tell you. Your footage of Anto is probably the last documentation of him.
Warm regards

This is really sad news. we met with Anto Menezes on July 26th. Anto’s brother is the swingin piano player , Mohsin, in Delhi. The Menezes family came from Colombo. Anto was a gentle and charming person who loved his music. He showed us his ancient vibraphone which was acquired from a British vibraphone player circa 1946. Anto played for us on this beat up instrument and showed us how he voiced chords with inverted roots etc ..and how he left space for the other instruments.. It was a shock to hear that he has passed on… Anto Menezes was 78 years old. There are many other musicians whose stories we need to capture, we are grateful that we could meet with Anto and document his story. Here are a few pics. ..the one with the piano , according to Anto, is to be credited to Tina Ambani, and is from a magazine article.

CLICK on this underlined link to see an article by Ian Zachariah

7 thoughts on “Sad news

  1. Hi
    This is Thomas (Anto’s youngest son)
    It’s ironic the week he took bad I had a conversation with Dad from Sydney and discussed the possibility of him writing a story a day about so many great unsung jazz musicians in India who have passed on, he seemed quite excited with this idea. Hopefully this forum will play tribute to all his unsung mates who lived Jazz and live Jazz. I am so fortunate to have attended sessions at social gatherings where these legends would swing and groove.
    I know Daddy is at Peace and jamming with all his mates up above…what a session that would be
    Thank you for your music pop!

  2. Four-day stage for all that jazz

    The fusion group of Wolfgang Netzer (second from left) and Ranajit Sengupta (second from right) in performance on Wednesday. (Anindya Shankar Ray)

    With just the right nip in the air, the Congo Square Jazz Fest 2009: Edition 2, in association with t2, is all set to rock the Dalhousie Institute lawns for four evenings starting Thursday.

    The “biggest jazz festival in India” with more than 11 bands will also pay tribute to city-based vibraphonist/pianist Anthony Menezes, who died in August.

    “We’re shifting the timing of the annual festival to November because it just makes sense. A lot of groups come down to the Jazz Yatra in Mumbai, so hooking up with them not only ensures reducing costs, it ensures the quality of music,” said Tapan Desai of Congo Square.

    The fest from November 19 to 22 offers a wide listening flavour ranging from traditional straightahead, jazz-funk and jazz-rock to a varied blend of fusion, touching on Indian classical music, with groups from Germany, Italy, Poland, the US and Spain. Among others, the fest showcases the return to Calcutta of the American trio Beatlejazz, with percussionist Brian Melvin at the helm of things; Dutch trumpeter Saskia Laroo, often called the ‘Lady Miles Davis of Europe’; the duo of German guitarist/oud player Wolfgang Netzer and sarod player Ranajit Sengupta and the Mumbai-based Interplay, featuring some of the best-known names in contemporary jazz in India.

    The Congo Square event is known for its experimental bent. This time, the surprises might begin right from the first group, which is the 10-member Tharichen’s Tentet from Germany, scheduled to raise the curtains at 6pm on Thursday. Day One will also feature the Rafal Gorzycki Ecstasy Project Trio from Poland and Beatlejazz. “For me, this tour is very special. I have been playing the tabla since 1976, so India is special; my first teacher was the late Ustad Alla Rakha. I was doing Beatles and jazz 25 years back, so Beatlejazz does all Beatles, but in its own way,” Melvin of Beatlejazz said on Wednesday evening.

    Day Two will feature the Andrea Marcelli Trio from Italy, which had collaborated on the Mira Nair film Mississippi Masala. The Saskia Laroo Band closes Day Two, while Saturday stars the fusion group of Wolfgang Netzer and Ranajit Sengupta, featuring percussionist Ratul Shankar. “I really squeezed time out for this festival, it’s a busy time,” said Netzer. “Being Bengali, being Indian, this is the best that I can offer with another musician friend from another culture to my city,” said Ranajit. This will be followed by the Barcelona-based Jaime Vilaseca Quartet, a cutting-edge band in European contemporary jazz.

    Sunday is dedicated to the memory of Anthony Menezes, with the oft-seen figures of Pondicherry-based French bass player Mishko M’ba and drummer Suresh Bascara, along with singer Andrea Jeremiah and pianist Steven Devassy. “This group will play standards; Anthony’s grandchildren, who are prodigies, will also guest on this band’s set. Interplay, with singer Sonia Saigal, closes the festival, with Adrian D’Souza on drums, Sheldon De Silva on bass, Harmeet Mansetta on keys and guest guitarist Dhruv Ghanekar.

  3. A Tribute to Anto Menezes
    Maurice Menezes, Anto’s brother and an accomplished musician himself, penned these words in tribute to one of Calcutta’s greatest Jazz musicians.
    Born in Goa in the year 1931, Anthony Wolfgang Mathias Menezes (fondly called Anto) moved to Chennai (then Madras) at a very early age as his parents had decided to settle there. The eldest of eight children, Anto showed musical prowess from a very tender age. Papa Menezes (Anto’s uncle) who was visiting from Colombo was quick to spot Anto’s innate talent and volunteered to take him to Colombo to study music under his tutelage. Two years later Anto returned to Chennai to continue his academic studies. However, the musician in him blossomed and bloomed so much that even before he could graduate into wearing long pants he could be seen and heard playing alongside the musical greats of Madras at the Connemara Hotel.
    Brought up in a home aptly called ‘Harmony’, where music was the food of life, helped in honing Anto’s musical skills. Whether it was playing the saxophone or sitting behind a drum set, Anto had the gift of lifting music to another level. Anto’s parents were keen that he pursue a career other than music as he was also academically very bright. However, economic constraints prevented them from sending him to college for further studies. It was then that Providence smiled on Calcutta. Anto was called to the city of joy for a job interview at George Telegraph. We are still not sure whether he passed the interview or even appeared for it. However, one thing is certain, Anto fell in love with the city and decided to adopt it as his home. The rest, as they say, is history!
    Anto immediately plunged himself into the city’s music fraternity for over two decades from the early 50s to the late 70s and dominated the music (read ‘jazz’) scene. The “Three Menezes” – Anto, Baby and Tony – formed the nucleus of Calcutta’s formidable jazz force. Be it Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, Andre Previn, Errol Garner, Bill Evans or George Shearing, these guys would belt it out sending lovers of jazz into a tizzy!
    Anto, restless as ever, was not content with just playing piano. He acquired a vibraphone, taught himself how to play it, excelled in it and then brought a new and exciting dimension to Calcutta’s Jazz scene. Calcutta (in fact, India) delighted in the fact that in Anto they had the first and only jazz vibraphonist!
    Anto was an excellent entertainer and would adapt his music to suit his audience. And so, Germans, Japanese and Greeks would head straight for the night club in which he was playing, knowing that he would oblige them with their favourites. He even ventured into Indian film music and studied Bengali music notation. Film and music directors from Satyajit Ray to R D burman hailed him as a genius and turned to him to put “magic” into their music.
    Anto is no more, yet the haunting sound of his vibraphone and that extra note he would pluck from out of nowhere and place into a chord to make it sound weird yet different and rich, lingers in the memory of those who have had the pleasure and privilege of hearing him. His music is indeed a celebration fit for the Gods!

  4. All that jazz : Anto Menezes
    Kolkata-based pianist, composer and performer Anto Menezes has spent over five decades entertaining club and film audiences. At 74, he continues to do what he does best, albeit with a change of pace, writes Ian Zachariah

    First love

    I have always loved jazz, though I have played everything. When I was working for Satyajit Ray and Salil Choudhury in Calcutta, I played Bengali music. In Bombay, I played Hindi music for R D Burman. I have also played Rabindrasangeet more than 50,000 times – many of the great artistes I played for are dead and gone, like Chinmoy Chatterjee, Debabrata Biswas, Suchitra Mitra and Hemant Mukherjee. Sometimes my appointment diary had four recordings a day. I would go to one studio, lay down a track and move on to the next. I still play occasionally for old, special friends like Manna Dey and Ajoy Chakravarty. But jazz remains my first love. I spent most of my years playing at the nightclub Mocambo on Free School Street in Calcutta. Those were good years, the ’60s, with singers like Pam Crain, Eve, Sweet Lorraine and Hazel.

    My music

    I was a very busy musician. Now, I have given up going to studios and playing at nightclubs and hotels. I have six children: Romulus, Thomas and Lorraine live in Australia; Louisa lives in Goa; and Dorothy and Cedric live in Calcutta. They didn’t like the idea of my carrying on and on. Not that I have totally left the field. I now enjoy it my way. I love western music, so I keep doing shows with friends like Pam and Usha [Uthup]. I play at Calcutta Club on Fridays, plus I do shows at the Hyatt Regency, Taj Bengal and ITC Sonar Bangla. I use a grand piano and mostly go solo. Occasionally, a violinist accompanies me. I am also invited at a number of exclusive house parties. I am well versed with all the oldies and can go back 70 years. So don’t ask me to play today’s music! I can’t. I love music and I love to create different types of music. But jazz is my cup of tea, so I focus more on jazz.

    City of dreams

    In 1950, I came to Calcutta from Madras as a radio officer. I came for an exam, but fell in love with music – it was alive in the city. I decided I was coming back for the music, and within a year I did. When I came, the scene was totally different.
    All the top hotels had foreign bands, class musicians from all over the world. The Grand Hotel on Chowringhee [known today as The Oberoi Grand] itself had five bands.
    I love the city. When I visit my children who are settled in Australia, they ask me to stay on, so I stay for a couple of months to please them. But Calcutta pulls me back. Maybe it’s my circle of friends. Maybe it’s everything. I started my career here – it’s like coming back home. And fortunately I live in the heart of the city, so everything is close and easy for me. No wonder I couldn’t stay in Bombay. When R D Burman took me there in 1966, everything was at a distance – schools, studios – so I came back. People here appreciate my kind of jazz and I get a lot of satisfaction when I see them enjoying themselves. I watch the crowd, try out a Bengali song, and if I see that they like it, I go all out. Even with a mixed crowd, I can play any kind of music.

    My family

    These days, I am teaching my grandchildren, making sure their studies don’t suffer. Savio, 10, and Angela, 8, play the keyboards and have a terrific feel for music. They have already performed at several venues – they played jazz at Planet M where Usha introduced them to Calcutta, and old favourites like Besame mucho and La bamba at a show recently organised by The Telegraph. They also play Goan tunes at Goan Nights and Rabindrasangeet at benefit shows for seniors. I teach other children too. Kids are my focus. To give them practice material for half an hour, I spend three to four hours arranging the music with big band sound. Even musicians like Pam and Usha are bowled over by the sound – they just can’t believe it can happen. I don’t think anyone has tried [the technique of] two people sitting at one piano and playing my kind of music. It’s a fun gimmick. Mostly three hands are used, with the younger participant playing the bass line. I also love writing music for the children. I get terrific satisfaction from it.

    What’s cooking

    I love cooking, even though I get very little time for it. But whenever I want to change the taste of the daily diet, I go into the kitchen. You will be surprised how a few spices can change the taste of a dish. Like a few notes can change the music.

    Featured in Harmony Magazine
    March 2005

  5. Magic Anto

    A gifted musician, an ever-giving soul with a peace-loving heart: Anto Menezes (picture left), who passed away on August 12, 2009, was one in a million. Satyajit Ray had called him a “genius”, R.D. Burman “one of the finest jazz musicians”, and Salil Choudhury “magic Anto”.

    Anto Menezes, pianist, composer and performer, had played for almost five decades. His love for music coupled with the bouncing, rhythmic sticks of the vibraphone made him an outstanding musician.

    He came to Calcutta from Goa. Satyajit Ray could never think of his films’ music without the two A’s — Aloke Nath Dey, a flautist who was the music conductor for all Ray films, and Anto Menezes. Sudhin Dasgupta’s music too was married to his playful sticks. During the Seventies, Bengali films were incomplete without the music of Anto Menezes.

    He had collaborated with Herbie Hancock when he came to India.

    Musicians such as Amyt Dutta, Monojit Dutta, Nondon Bagchi, Lew Hilt, Benu Chatterjee and Sumit Ramachandran speak of him as an immense inspiration. I am indebted to him for my knowledge of modern harmony and for enhancing my latent capabilities. He had the Goan musicians’ indigenous musical tonality.

    Anto Menezes, despite being a master of jazz and blues, never hankered after money or fame. I don’t want to sound sad as our ever-smiling Anthony Wolfgang Menezes might not have wanted tears. But on behalf of all musicians, I pay this homage to the master.

    (The author is a musician and composer)

  6. Indian Jazz Scene: The present generation of jazz musicians thrives on electric or bass guitar, synthesiser and drums.

    Traditional jazz instruments like trumpet, trombone and clarinet are shunned by them because mastering them takes time and involves intensive practice. Vibraphone, made famous by Lionel Hampton, is hardly played by our jazz musicians.

    An exception was the gifted musician, Anto Menezes, a pianist, composer and performer, who delighted jazz fans with his magical touch on the vibes. Anto played in Delhi in 1982 with the All Star Swing Band which featured greats like Rudy Cotton and Anto’s brother Mosin Menezes. Anto’s performance made that concert unforgettable.

    Anto rightly described as “an ever-giving soul with a peace-loving heart” passed away in Kolkata last month leaving a void in the Indian jazz world.

    Soli Sorabjee Solicitor-General of India from 1977 to 1980. He was appointed Attorney-General of India on 7 April 1998, a post he held until 2004.

  7. Music and More

    Posted: Jan 24, 2008 at 0254 hrs IST

    Anto Menezes’ vibraphone dates back to Park Street in its Pink Elephant days. While most found it obsolete and referred it to the museum, Chistopher Dell thought otherwise. That would roughly be musician from Berlin for you. Dell will be in city for four weeks on a ‘Music Residency’. Apart from interesting sounds, architecture and public spaces demand quite a bit of Dell’s interest. Therefore, during his four-week stay in Kolkata, Dell will be found playing at various corners of the city — amid squabbling vendors, deafening traffic etc. Subramanian Raman, programme director, Max Mueller Bhavan said, “Dell will be exploring and experimenting with sounds in the city. He will be playing at different public spaces and will try to find if something creative can be shaped out of it.” So it might be the cacophony of the urchins around him or the raucous hawkers, Dell will try finding music in them all. ‘It might so happen that some people around get interested and join his musical performance. That would be quite creative,” adds Raman. Dell’s residency will culminate in a musical performance
    and an interactive session called Proximities. The interactive session will have urban planner Manish Chakrabarti and theatre and film director Suman Mukhopadhyay in converse with Dell. Their focus will be ‘Performing Arts in Temporary Public Spaces’.

    Christopher Dell will be in city from January 25. Proximities will be held on February 13 at Max Mueller Bhavan and Dell will perform at the same venue on February 16.

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