Incredible Ellington — in India ! Pt I

The search for Archival material for our documentary film Finding Carlton – Uncovering the Story of Jazz in a story in itself…Here is how we came across some rare (and probably the only footage) of Ellington in India – 1963 !!

The Ellington band toured India in 1963. This was their first ever visit to Asia and the Middle East..and it was a wide ranging series of concerts in Syria, Jordan, Afghanistan, India, Ceylon, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey !!!

With the support of dedicated jazz fans in India, we had started assembling a collection of photos, anecdotes, a first hand encounter in Calcutta and even concert programs, and yes tickets ! but what was missing was crucially important audio, and the holy grail – film footage.

Thanks to Jehangir Dalal, We came across a link in an archive of Duke Ellington tour information that hinted that the tour has been filmed in various countries , including India.. we tracked down the first link and it turned out to be from a concert in Iran..and then through an archivist in Belgium we came across some footage , stored in the National Archives in Maryland, that was not cataloged as footage from India..but had 2 or 3 clues that gave away its location..

Well, it was quite a hunt, that took us from New York, to Washington D.c , and then to Brussels, and back to an archive in Virgina…and what we unearthed is a treat , a delight for the eyes and ears…and yes the sound !!! Here is a brief except…

a) Marigolds spelling out the THE DUKE – Location: Shanmukhananda Hall, Bombay, 10th OCtober 1963
b) Chicago Radio on mike stand (with a classic Shure !) only in India !
c) AIR on mike
d) audience ..duh

In a future post , we will share our findings about how a Bombay born Jazz Trumpeter played with the Ellington Band..along with some interesting archival photos , and yes more video and music from the Ellington India tour



In the early 50’s Jazz in India was largely ‘stuck’ in a time warp..the big bands  may have been replaced by smaller combo’s ..but what they played was “swing thing’..however a few musicians and fans had their ears tuned to new sounds that were coming in ..faster tempo’s,  rhythmic accents and counterpoints , improvisation over extended chords , and most of all re-harmonization and melodic invention at a whole new level..

In this video, a jazz fan recalls how he came upon the New Sound

Niranjan Jhaveri




My personal thanks to you and your friends for letting me experience Jazz Yatra 1978 and 1980

My doors to jazz were opened wide and the music rushed in…and stayed

Niranjan Jhaveri – R. I. P. May 21, 2010

We mourn the passing of Niranjan Jhaveri – a passionate jazz fan, whose hard work, dedication and sheer love for the music propelled India into the eye of the Jazz World. Niranjan was a visionary who realized that Indian Classical vocal training was the ideal foundation for training a jazz vocalist…and his astute analysis led him to create JVI – the Jazz Vocal Institute through which he educated a worldwide audience and brought singers from all over the world to India to study and integrate India’s classical vocal tradition.

To his longtime friends he was simply “Niru” and some of their thoughts are shared below:

“Niranjan’s passing away means the end of my 50 year old friendship. He was primarily responsible for bringing jazz to India by organising jazz festivals since 1978. ” Soli

“It is a sad end to a courageous fighter against his cancer. There are so many memories over the decades of a good friend and a great lover and fighter for jazz in India.” Promodh

“I’ve often wondered how jazz would have developed in India if there had not been Niru Jhaveri. He was a game-maker and a game-changer. God rest him.” Stanley

“He put into reality many of the things that we were hoping to do..its been a long and deep friendship .there is too much to say”
“When  we were still listening to Eddie Condon and Mugsy Spanier it was Niru who introduced us to Dizzy and Charlie Parker”


” I am deeply saddened by Niru’s passing. To me, he was the man who put India on the jazz map with those outstanding jazz Yatras from 1978 to about 1990. Prior to that, old timers used to wistfully talk of having heard Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and maybe Jack Teagarden in Bombay or Calcutta. ……after the departure from Bombay in the mid 70s of Jehangir Dalal, Soli Sorabjee, Manek Davar and others to various places, Niru took up the challenge and had the drive to bring big jazz stars to India. I think we should stage at least one Jazz festival in India in Niru’s honour. He deserves no less.
I’m sure he is enjoying meeting all his favourite jazz musicians he has gone to join!
Goodbye, Niranjan.”

Our condolences to the Jhaveri family who were so gracious and generous with their assistance during our filming..

We were fortunate to be able spend some time with Niranjan in 2009 and document his thoughts and story on film Sometime later this week , I will post a brief video edit from that interview

In the meanwhile, you can see an extended video edit that incorporates conversations with Niranjan , here

Indo Jazz Fusion

We continue to look at the impact of Jazz on India and its influence on Indian musicians.  By the late 70’s various musicians from the West led by Charlie Mariano and other progressives had established far reaching roots in this genre.  “Mahavishnu” John Mclaughlin’s ground breaking work with Shakti is probably the most well known association with Indo Jazz fusion. In these videos we look at the fusing of the jazz culture with Indian music through Indian voices and perspective.

Our thanks to  Niranjan Jhaveri and the Jhaveri family for their participation. We are also deeply indebted to Ranjit Barot and Nirvana Studio for his incredible support for this film project.

Click here for Part 1 of Indo Jazz fusion

Click here for Part II of Indo Jazz fusion