Righteous !… but Bittersweet ?


On Friday evening , the 14th of October 2011,  the Carlton Kitto Jazz Ensemble will open a three day international jazz event in Bombay ….Carlton’s set will be followed by Jon Faddis. The next two days feature Steve Turre, the Cedar Walton Trio, and Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Legacy .

Great stuff, and its truly righteous that our friend Carlton Kitto has been finally recognized by the local jazz cogniscenti .. its just marvellous to read the listing on their website:

Carlton Kitto is a legendary figure in jazz from India. When he was band leader at Blue Fox on Park Street, Kolkatta, for about 12 years (before which Louiz Banks was the leader and Carlton played in his band), he jammed with all visiting jazz musicians from different corners of the world, including people like Steve Turre, Kenny Baron, Chico Freeman and others and their response to his knowledge of his guitar and his fluency and familiarity with bebop in particular, was remarkable. He remains a purist and will only play music pieces the way they were composed, adhering to stylistic  traditions.

For this talented and dedicated professional who has survived by eking out a meagre living in Calcutta, and has been passed by and indeed ignored by  the grand pooh-bahs of Jazz in India , this is an amazing honor and recognition …long, long, overdue …

Regardless of the fact that we cant help wondering  whether our film has played some small part in this (rewind to June 2009 in India, in conversation with one of the grand poo-bahs: “carlton who ?”) we are simply delighted, turning cartwheels and standing on our head while applauding the team at the NCPA that made this singular honor occur. Join us in a well-deserved round of applause for the committee that helped make this happen…well done !

Yes, this is indeed righteous ..So what’s the bittersweet angle to this post ?

Well, to delve into this we must  breach the delicate fiction that often surrounds our perspective of the musician/artist…our romantic image of the musician who is just happy to play , and cares nought about money or reward.. It turns out that regardless of their laudable effort to bring Carlton to recognition, the NCPA had a different perspective on his economic value..and in effect decreed that although his musical talent is enough to earn him a place on stage with some well respected names in jazz ,the value of his music for the evening is the same as what he might make for a local gig in Calcutta..approximately 5%, yes thats right just 5%, of what will be renumerated to the names we mentioned earlier. ..far, far less than what might be fair when playing a ticketed gig, on an international stage with some of the best known names in jazz !

(if the gory details do matter, please feel free to contact us !)
This makes us wonder as to whether the NCPA truly understands and comprehends the message it is sending to the few remaining Indian jazz professionals and the many aspiring your musicians who love this music;
– Is this an a definitive statement of how a national arts organization values home grown talent ?
– Or is it simply that this was seen as an expedient deal that suited the planners ?
– Or is this just simply following in the footsteps of past organizers of such events in India, who consistently played the “we are doing you a favor and giving you a chance” game with Indian talent ?
–  Or is it that a Carlton Kitto is so eager to have a venue for the music he loves that he is willing to accept the bone tossed at him, and be grateful that he is invited ?
– Or is it that this is the only way a Carlton Kitto can play on the big stage? Take it or leave it ?
– Will this help Indian Jazz ? Will it help develop other Carltons ?
We leave you with these questions and the bittersweet that blurs the boundary between what should be and what is , still delighted that Carlton has finally found recognition..


And for those of you who wont make it to the NCPA tonite… a video from our Calcutta shoot last year.. of Carlton Kitto and his Jazz Ensemble…(albeit with some changes in bass and keys  for the NCPA gig)…just another night in Calcutta !

2 thoughts on “Righteous !… but Bittersweet ?

  1. All the money in the mint couldn’t start to pay the great jazz players for what they give us — which is no excuse for the powers that be, wherever they are, to offer a fair recompense. But artists show such joy on their faces while they are improvising that I suppose that concert organizers and grants institutions forget that artists have less joyous expressions on their faces when they must pay their bills. The question of whether the occasion is more righteous than bittersweet is one we would have to leave up to Carlton, and I suspect that he is far past bitterness at unjust treatment. I hope so.

  2. I dont think the NCPA cares about Jazz in India The bush shirted gents who man that august organization would also ask John who or Cedar who and even Thelonious who ! That they have agreed to host such a program and allotted funds is saying a lot The sad fact is jazz in India has a few excellent dedicated musicians and a microscopic supporting community But put together it doesnt make for commercial sense so the Carltons will be left out unless they are flexible,,they travel and play wide and across like some of the younger musicians are doing to help pay the bills and save up for tomorrow That does not mean they compromise on the music because they always come back to jazz a few times in a month out of the several that they perform

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s