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 ? !

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Education Presentation – Preview


We were delighted  to preview our Education Presentation on Finding Carlton – Uncovering the Story of Jazz in India at the RIVAA Gallery , December 11,2011.
Our groundbreaking documentary film  tells a little known story of the Jazz diaspora.  This  inspirational film is a cross cultural journey that is endearing and entertaining while educating viewers on a historical arc that spans from 1926 to 1978.

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

Time for Jazz


Beginning in 1955, there was one worldwide voice that was inexorably linked to Jazz. This voice was not that of a jazz musician. But this voice reached out from the early days of the Cold War, and could be heard nightly from from East Berlin to Vladivastok, from Azerbaijan to Australia…for almost 25 years…bringing the sweet music to millions of jazz listeners worldwide. And while his name was practically unknown in the US, he became a powerful symbol of an America that promoted goodwill through jazz.

Willis Conover was not a jazz musician. However, many people believe that he did more to spread the sound of jazz than any person in music history and singularly helped make Jazz an international language. For more than forty years Conover brought jazz to people around world on his Voice of America (VOA) radio music programs “Music USA”. Here is a video tribute to that program  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

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

Taj Mahal Foxtrot


We are delighted that our friend and collaborator (indeed, our lead historian for Bombay jazz history) Naresh Fernandes is ready to unleash his book !.. Great work  Naresh  !  This book reflects many years of research and the gathering of a wonderful set of archival material that tells the story of how Bombay and Jazz co-habited, and indeed, gave birth to an era when the swinging sounds could be heard in many a venue.. We are much much appreciative of Naresh’s participation and passionate support for the documentary, and of course for the generous outpouring of archival materials, many of which have found a home in the film..

Here is what he says about his upcoming book:

Dear all,
Ahead of the publication of Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay’s Jazz Age, I’m really trying to overcome my technophobia. The website for the book www.tajmahalfoxtrot.com is now up and running. Over the next few months, I’m going to be posting outakes and riffs on the book, as well as archival audio clips on the site. My first post is about how the drummer Oliver Tines, who was once a regular member of Louis Armstrong’s band, ended up spending his last days in Satara.
TajMahal Foxtrot also has a Facebook page.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Taj-Mahal-Foxtrot-The-Story-of-Bombays-Jazz-Age-by-Naresh-Fernandes/225469034137182
 

Naresh’s pre-launch website has already generated feedback and hopefully more and more archival anecdotes and material will be result….Gordon Rodricks in Bombay responded to Naresh’s email and  shared  this article “the last Gig” – about the tail end of the jazz era in Bombay ..part of his collection of “Jazz in Bombay” history…Thanks Gordon

THE BASEMENT TAPES


One of the challenges of recounting history in a documentary film is locating archival material. And a film about the story of Jazz, in India, requires authentic archival audio.  Its a constant search , that turns up resources from the most unexpected places..and this post is about an amazing find..the basement tapes ! ..this time from Bombay, via Canada, and not from  Woodstock !

Heres the story..About a year and a half ago, we learned about some old reel tapes that had languished in a basement in Canada, transported there from India by the sister of a well known Bombay musician of the past..They finally go to us, in bad shape, contents unknown, and frankly in danger that old magnetic tape would fall apart..The reels had all the danger signs, cracking surfaces, stretched , and print through (when audio leaks through the layers of tape). Regardless , we finally found an machine that could play this, thanks to our friends at the Institute of Jazz Studies and carefully sampled a few  minutes from each…. WOW..what was in our hands was the only known recording of the Micky Correa Big Band..swinging away, live,  at his very last performance …the farewell concert , Taj Mahal Hotel, 1962 !

It was too dangerous to run the entire tapes..what was most important was that they be transferred.. so it was determined that they be sent to a specialty shop,  where they could be transferred ..so off they went to a specialty shop in Ohio that pulled off as much audio as possible from the two reels that were playable.

A six minute test edit captures part of this story …

NOW ON YOU TUBE

And there you have it .. the Basement Tapes..a wonderful piece of archival history, portions of which will feature in our film…thanks to the Correa family.

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 !!