Finding Paris – The French Connection


Alix1

click to enlarge

Between 1950 and 1952,  Calcutta was home to the  “Le premier négre du jazz, made in France” (= The first “black” French jazz musician) – Alix Combelle and the “modern” sound of his sextet – three saxes, and a rhythm section.

We followed up in a  2011 Update with interesting documentation including a photo of the band in Calcutta.

Jhaveri 1955-JazzHot

Next, in 2012- came the French Connection, and our friendship with Stephane Dorin, who shared this documentation written by the remarkable “Godfather of Jazz in India”  – Niranjan Jhaveri, found in  Charles Delaunay and Hughes Panassié ‘s  Jazz Hot Magazine  (1955)

And now in 2013..more news of the French jazzmen in India ? Continue reading

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We’ve come a long way, baby !


And though we don’t endorse the product that is the subject of the iconic slogan from the Mad Men Era,  and can’t help but smile when we hear the bubblegum anthem from Josie and the Pussycats ,  and as for Fatboy Slim   well….we have come a long way! .

Who would have ‘thunk” that a film about Jazz in India would feature at the first ever International Jazz Day Celebration at the UN ?!

And today, on April 30, 20112 , as declared in PI 2027 issued at the United Nations General Assembly “The Committee on Information of the United Nations General Assembly, in association with the United Nations Academic Impact and the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, will organize a special event to celebrate the first International Jazz Day on 30 April 2012.”

Yes,  Jazz  truly transcends languages, borders and all the divisions that we choose to create between ourselves.. And this great music found its way to India almost 80 years ago, brought there by a diaspora of talented African-American musicians who left behind a legacy that survived them and even wove its way into India’s popular music.

Herb Flemming (Nicolaaih El-Michelle) was one of those pioneers.. (click here for a Wiki entry, and stay tuned for more info in a future post) Here is a clip from the film that tells his story in India..

We are greatly honored to premiere Finding Carlton – on International Jazz Day…when India joins in the celebration of this truly international music with a tale of how jazz travelled to India.. Finding Carlton – Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India !

Made possible by the support and trust of a group of amazing people from all over the world..and yes the invaluable goodwill of all the readers of this blog and our Facebook friends… Thank You !….as we all stand together and say

We have come a long way ..who would have “thunk” it ? !

Alberta Hunter – In Calcutta ?


Prelude:  It was late summer 1982.  I had heard about a 82 year old blueswoman who drew in the crowd at  the Cookery, in the Village…and went there to stand at the bar.   And Alberta Hunter cast her spell on yet another, one magic night in the summer of 1982

Alberta brought a purity and a deep understanding to the blues. She lived the ‘blues” and like many a musician, her life was poured out every night she performed.  If you have never heard about Alberta Hunter, check out this video of Alberta in her 80’s!

And the Ethel Waters song that she revived and made famous.. My Handyman !

But why the title of this post ? Continue reading

On JAZZ LIVES – Every Picture Tells a Story


Michael Steinman is the archivist and jazz writer behind JAZZ LIVES , recently nominated as one of the Best Jazz Blogs of 2009 by the Jazz Journalists Association. Michael has a lot to be proud of, including a “community of readers it has attracted from Long Island to Istanbul”. JAZZ LIVES consistently shows up in the Top 10 jazz blogs worldwide !

  We thank Michael and JAZZ LIVES for sharing our story, but we owe him and the readers of JAZZ LIVES an apology. To  read JAZZ LIVES just click on the link below http://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/finding-carlton-discovering-jazz-in-india/

It turns out that we were inaccurate in referencing the photo that we sent him (at left) as “Bombay Bands play tribute to Benny Goodman”.

We now learn (thanks to detail from sax playing archivist Nakul Mehta, in Bombay, and our overflowing digital archives) that it was a tribute to Glenn Miller ! …but there was also a tribute event to Benny Goodman…

And because every picture tells a story …here’s the story behind the photo and both those events Continue reading

Video Clip from the Film- An Ellington Story (without the Duke!)


The Ellington band toured India in 1963 ..and their sound was heard by thousands of Indians..Among them a young guitarist in Madras (now Chennai).. In this video, Carlton tells the story of how he met Ellington.

The Ellington band arrived in India on September 21, 1963..After concerts in New Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore, the band arrived in Madras on Saturday 6th, October . On Sunday , the 7th ,the played at the Music Academy Auditorium, Madras.  Ellington however was not with the band, he had taken ill in New Delhi, and stayed there recovering, while the band continued its tour.. So who was it who spoke to Carlton ? Billy Strayhorn ?  or Harry Carney , the official deputy band leader ? (Strayhorn filled the Duke’s spot at the piano) ..Our opinion is that it was probably Carney, who as deputy, would have the authority to allow Carlton to sit in on the rehearsal.

We dont know for sure, but in Carlton’s memory ..it was the Duke..and so it shall be for the purposes of this story !

The Indian Express, Madras , October 1963, accurately reported “ELLINGTONIANS STORM MADRAS” …and here is the review and some details of the band’s schedule Continue reading

Black Soul of Calcutta and Mussoorie


Nathan Rabe , who blogs as “Ajnabi” -from Melbourne, Victoria..wrote to us:
” What a story. Thank you for sharing it. I have just found your blog and have a passionate interest in music India and Anglo Indians..I am not one but have many friends from Allahabad, Karnataka, Madras etc.
– Ajnabi

We introduced Nathan to our friend Dr. Brad Shope (search this blog for more info about Brad’s contribution to this project) and the rest is on his Washermans Dog blog

The Ajnabi’s blog carried this post …worth the read ..and scroll down to the end of his post for a listen!

http://washermansdog-ajnabi.blogspot.com/2011/08/black-soul-of-calcutta-and-mussoorie.html

Incredible Ellington — in India ! Pt I


The search for Archival material for our documentary film Finding Carlton – Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India..is 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…

THE CLUES:
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

Tracing the story – now back to 1922


Thanks to Abe Thomas in Los Angeles, we were made aware of Astri Ghosh (New Delhi) and her efforts to document an oral history of Jazz musicians in India. Astri has shared this interesting article by Burnet Hershey  from the New York Times Magazine and Review of Books – 1922 – a jazz journey along the “Jazz Latitude”,–round the world from San Francis to New York, via Japan, Saigon, Siam, India, Egypt, Jerusalem, Monte Carlo, and Paris….Astri graciously quotes what Burnet Hershey  has to say about Jazz in India at that time:

“In Calcutta, as in Bombay and throughout India, where the English civil service man makes his home, and where a handful of white business, army and professional men make up the European colony, Jazz is welcomed as a “lifesaver”. In this country of few diversions, it relieves the tedium of routine existence. India sounds like a paradise for romance, but the colonist, the army officer who has spent many months and years amid the “dirt of Asia,” is blase and weary of the life. He has turned to bridge and poker. Now he gladly seizes upon jazz. And there is always the “stengha,” the whisky-soda, faithful auxiliary of jazz.

In India, the full state of jazz has not yet been evolved from ragtime, although the frequent streams of returning officials from England all bring with them new cargoes of tunes – direct from New york via Leicester Square. But by the time they reach there, they are old and shopworn.

Copyright New York TImes

Journey along the Indian coast in the Arabian Sea to India’s little brother Ceylon, where you find jazz in its most antiquated state. It isn’t jazz, but they think it is. They have only arrived at Down in Jungle Town. The record, played on a venerable gramaphone, was one of the old ones which announced the song and the band. But the one-step is there. On the terrace of the Galle Face Hotel, on the edge of the Arabian Sea, an Arabian moon, swaying cocoanut trees, chirping monkeys and cawing of big birds mingled with the strains of the local band”.

Although a somewhat disparaging view of Jazz in India, never the less, an important historical document that references Jazz in India – 90 years ago…

Click here for the entire article, Jazz Latitude,by Burnet Hershey, June 25, 1922, Copyright the New York TImes

Thanks Astri , and do keep us posted on your Oral History project !!

Who Brought Jazz to India – Part III


Thanks for the feedback on this series featuring the work of Dr. Brad Shope , Texas A&M..
Part I and II are available here

Who Brought Jazz to India – Part I
Who Brought Jazz to India – Part II

As we conclude with Part III, we recognize , along with Brad, that there are others who have also undertaken a journey of discovery with regard to the origins and history of Jazz in India. This slide from our presentation at the Institute of Jazz Studies lists many contributors who work has helped with the historical background of this film.. Do take a moment to google some of the names, or peruse the blog for references to their work

Here is Part III

Who Brought Jazz to India ? Part II


Thanks for the emails related to the previous post

So for those who are interested , we continue the story told in the Presentation at the Institute of Jazz Studies on Feb 16th…this time through the voice of Dr. Brad Shope, on the faculty at Texas A& M…with visuals and a film clip

Part III, will follow , next week