The French Connection


Four years ago, when we began this project, we had little idea of the interest that might surround it.. and apart from a few whisky sodden minds here and there, we were under the distinct impression that interest in similar research and uncovering was restricted to the aforesaid flotsam and jetsam of peripheral jazz trivia.. How wrong we were.. and little did we know at that time that scholars and learned souls were steadily pursuing and uncovering more of the the rich history that has materialized into this film.. And we regret most heartily that we not privileged to meet them along the way and benefit from their academic scholarship..

And thus , this French Connection

In 2011 we wrote about how the legendary French tenor man Alix Combelle.. found his way to Calcutta

ALIX COMBELLE

….and then, then in 2011,  more about Alix Combelle…and then, in response,  from Our Gentleman of Perpetual Indian Jazz Archives (aka Naresh Fernandes the author of the very fine book Taj Mahal Foxtrot)  shared with us Niranjan Jhaveri’s 1953 review of Alix’s performance in Calcutta.. but was this the only French Jazz Connection to our continuing story ?

Well, around the spring of 2011, the Finding Carlton Blog received the following letter from France:

I came across your Bluerhythm website, and was so delighted to see someone has done a documentary on Cartlon Kitto.

Stephane Dorin , in Calcutta 1997.. working on his Research

I met him 15 years ago in Calcutta, at the beginning of my PhD on jazz and rock culture in Calcutta. I also met Arthur Gracias, Amit Datta, Rubien Rebeiro, Anto Menezes and my friend Tuki from Krosswindz.

I have been to Calcutta around 10 times, the last one was in 2009. …. I am a social scientist in Paris,…..I mostly wrote in French, but I recently published an article on Jazz and race in colonial India, in Jazz Research Journal. It might be of some interest to you…This month also, I am publishing another article, of a larger scope, but in French, in the anthropology review L’Homme (issue 202, 2012).

Astounding.….!

But, wait,, it turns out that Stephane Dorin’s, scholarly work, Jazz and Race in Colonial India was rich in detail and explored the nuances of culture that gave rise to the jazz culture that prevailed thereafter.  His research included study of materials available from the Roy Butler Collection, in Chicago…from where arrived this image of a contract that lured an American jazzman to play in India.

Stephane also opined , quite succinctly, that although Bombay with its many Goan musicians had a rich jazz history, it was Calcutta , that in many ways was the “mothership”..  he says..  “Anglo-Indian musicians acted as go-betweens, passing down the theoretical knowledge of western harmony as well as the practice of western instruments to the generations of post-Independence India. Moreover, they were the first Indian musicians to perform jazz and blues standards in Calcutta or Bombay, around World War II. Thus, they played a major role in the diffusion of jazz and blues music in India.”

In our film,  Finding Carlton, we share the story of Herb Flemming the “first Jazz Ambassador”who landed in Bombay in 1933, after a brief rest stop in Bombay, proceeded almost immediately to Calcutta and the Grand Hotel..

In the summer of 2011 we had the opportunity to meet with Stephane and get to know this passionate scholar who continues to have focus on the “Circulation of Jazz outside the United States”..

Stephane Dorin:   http://www.stephanedorin.fr
Maître de conférences à l’université Paris 8 Chercheur en délégation au Centre Européen de sociologie et de sciences politiques (CESSP) UMR 8209 CNRS/EHESS/Université Paris1-Panthéon-SorbonneCentre Pouchet, CESSP, 59-61 rue Pouchet, 75849 Paris Cedex 17

Stephane has been diligently working on uniting scholars from around the world who have looked at this ..and as his network has expanded  it now spans to academics at various universities. He has had remarkable outreach and will hopefully be able to unite a worldwide team of authorities in seminal conference …where for the first time they will look at how jazz cultures were birthed and flourished outside the United States.. and hopefully as they pursue this discourse , there will be Finding Carlton (and) Uncovering the Story of jazz in India

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

THE NEW SOUND


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

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

Desperately seeking Calcutta


Thanks to friends of this film all over the world, we have accumulated over 700 photos and other documents that will create authenticity and enrich the archival feel of the film. Many are from personal collections including that of Jehangir Dalal, Naresh Fernandes, Nakul Mehta, Niranjan Jhaveri, musicians scrapbooks, materials from Dr. Brad Shope, the personal collection of Micky Correa and others. Their is a tremendous amount of archival material from Bombay but sadly very little from Calcutta..This is hard to understand, particularly since Calcutta had a thriving jazz culture for so many years, and indeed was for a while the center of India’s jazz scene.

We are desperate for archival photos that show jazz bands and audiences at the Calcutta landmarks including The Golden Slipper, Prince’s , the Winter Garden, Moulin Rouge, The Blue Fox, Mocambo..etc. We also need progams, brochures, adverts that reflect the jazz environment of the time.  Especially valuable would be old audio, in any format , that we may convert.  Without Calcutta archival material, the film wont be complete.

Reimagine the clip The Jazz Scene was Calcutta with appropriate  interiors or shots of archival material that could enrich it

Please share this and feedback on any sources that might be able to help us.

The jazz scene was Calcutta…


..says Louiz Banks, in a recently posted video sequence… I’ve edited a sequence that recounts some wonderful stories from the days when Calcutta was swinging and syncopating .. Calcutta boasts the first recorded jazz in India, a ‘hot’ tune featuring Al Bowly when he played at the Grand Hotel in 1926. Interestingly India’s jazz history features two famous hotels , the Grand in Calcutta and the Taj in Bombay.  My conclusion is that without these two ‘characters”   jazz in India would not be the same.

The opening audio for this sequence is from a collection of rarely heard tunes (originally cylinders and ’78’s) from a compilation called “Jazz and Hot Dance in India – 1929-1946” ..Among others, it features Al Bowlly, Teddy Weatherford, and Cricket Smith, and in all probability , Louiz’s dad – “Georgie” Banks.   Warren Pinckney, in his essay , Jazz in India – Perspectives on Historical Development and Musical Acculturation (1989) credits finding this collection as the impetus for his research. Thanks to Naresh Fernandes for unearthing and sharing a copy.

 

Click here to check out the the time when the Jazz Scene was Calcutta