Bridging the World


When Louiz Banks heard a rare 1956 recording of Brubeck and Morello with Palani Subramanium,(see Louiz , Part I) he marvelled at what is probably the earliest recorded attempt at Indo-jazz fusion.

Jazz has the ability to bridge cultures and its African roots and pentatonic underpinnings encourage rhythmic and melodic fusions ..  And this capability has seduced and attracted musicians from both India and the West into creating integration.

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In the 60’s, two  musicians profoundly influenced and impacted this fusion: Two from India – Ravi Shankar and John Meyer .

Ravi Shankar’s seminal 1962 release,  Improvisations featured Bud Shank (Flute) , Dennis Budimir (guitar), Gary Peacock (bass) and the great Louis Hayes (drums).. he went on teach and and influenced Coltrane,  Buddy Rich and many others.

John Mayer grew up in Calcutta , studied both Western and Indian Classical music and went to the UK.  His pioneering work with Joe Herriott led to the Joe Herriott and John Mayer Double quintet that fused Indian, Jazz and Classical forms.

Click here to read an interesting article from www.congosquarejazz.com adapted by Satyajit Roychaudhury from: Gerry Farrell’s book, Indian Music and the West,  Oxford University Press, 1997

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In their footsteps came other Indian jazz musicians who reached out on their instruments to integrate and link these two musical cultures. Among them is the relatively unknown guitarist Amancio D’Silva whose journey is quite interesting.  Thanks to Naresh Fernandes in Bombay for introducing me to his story. I have been listening to his album Integration recorded in 1969. The website www.amanciodsilva.com includes his biography and some of his music.

By the 1980’s Braz Gonsalves the brilliant  saxophonist and composer (who incidentally played with Amancio in the ’60s , had developed his own path into Indo-jazz fusion and along with Louis Banks formed the “Indo Jazz Ensemble” in the late 70’s.  They, and the young master drummer Ranjit Barot, bassist Karl Peters and the acclaimed Carnatic vocalist Ramamani and others merged into the eclectic group Sangam which toured Europe in the early 80’s and went on to peform at the Berlin Jazz Festival.

There are many others who deserve attention for their contributions, including the renowned percussionists Ramesh Shottam, Trilok Gurtu, singer Asha Puthli,  and of course Waterfront, the legendary Bombay based pioneering ind0-jazz-rock group (Derek Julian, Roger Dragonnette, Trilok Gurtu , Soli Dastur and others).  More well known in Europe ,perhaps than America, each of them has contributed in significant way to bridging the world.

5 thoughts on “Bridging the World

  1. John Mayer I met John Mayer in Calcutta, when he visited with his (then) new wife Gillian, in the early 70s. We struck a friendship that lasted until he died in a hit-and-run case a couple of years ago.

    We met often in London – once even lived with them for a few days. Here are some photos I took at the time on an old Kodak Brownie. The two little boys are their sons Jonathan and Jehan. John Mayer and kids
    The two ladies are Gilly and my wife Yvonne.Ladies

    Through Johnny I met Paul McCartney at his home in St John’s Wood – PM’s band Wings was rehearsing for their first tour to the USA and Johnny had written the background symphonic scores for some of the songs.

    Later he took me to rehearsals with James (Jimmy, we called him) Galway for an album he was recording with (I think) the LSO, of a concerto composed by Johnny. By the way, I told Galway, now Sir James, that one day he will hear of a man called Hariprasad Chaurasia, who would knock his and Jean-Pierre Rampal’s socks off. Chaurasia was unknown at the time – playing on my advertising jingles (along with Jagjit Singh, Chitra Dutta – later Singh – and others) for Rs 80 per jingle!.

    I also knew the guitarist Amancio D’silva quite well. He worked with his trio at Bombelli’s in Worli, Bombay, if I recall right, before disappearing on the secondary circuit of hill stations in summer. A sweet gentle man, but, truth be told, a mediocre guitar player, nowhere in the sameleague as Anibal Castro and Denis (?) who worked with Dorothy Jones at Berry’s. Amancio met and married an Irish woman, emigrated to the UK with her, took advantage of the incipient Indo-Jazz thing that was happening in the UK to make an album of, dare I say it, pretty fake Indian-sounding tunes. Very atmospheric, and all that, but the weakest player on the date was Amancio. I am now writing from my memory of it, which goes back 40 years, but I do know that Amancio didn’t know a thing about Indian music. He was promoted by the same man who recorded Johnny Mayer and his Indo-Jazz Fusions band, and I know that he had Johnny work with Amancio on developing that record, which frustrated Johnny a little because he was trained in Indian music and Amancio, not put too fine a point to it, was not. But hey, we all have to do what we must do to put food on the table and I have always appreciated Amancio’s drive and chutzpah.

  2. Re:- Indo Jazz Fusion

    In the nineteen forties-fifties did not Rudy Cotton play his variation on Soni Raag as his signature tune?
    Maybe someone can confirm/correct.

  3. For any who are interested in hearing more of or readng more about my father Amancio D’Silva’s music, played and recored onwads to 1974 (and there are later recordings that’ll hopefully make it to press before long also) with musicians of many backgrounds, please have a look at the website http://www.amanciodsilva.com and hopefully very soon there’ll be some sounds added to Susheel’s passage above. Meantime there are a few bites at http//www.myspace.com/amanciodsilva

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