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

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

Righteous !… but Bittersweet ?


Jazz

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 ? Continue reading

Thank you – Sean Jacobs- Africa is a Country


We are most delighted that the story of this Film is finding a community of interest…all over the world..

Here is Sean Jacobs’ post on the Africa is a Country blog

Thank youSean
Please click here to read his blog post Indian Jazz,  and we reproduce the text below Continue reading

FEEDBACK – An Article about the Film


The Indian Express was kind enough to carry an article about the film in both their Delhi and Mumbai editions..We much appreciate their point of view, and genuinely thank them for all their efforts including a very detailed read of our blog and various websites…most importantly we thank them for recognizing the spirit of the film and its focus..and it is very respectful of the musicians involved.

..But we can’t help wishing that their fact checking department stuck with the facts! ..Its nice to be called a professional filmmaker, gain a few more years, to hear that Carlton played with Monk (!) and to learn that we studied with Warren Pinckney in 1981!
While we are at it, can we also lose a few pounds ? 🙂

Indian-Express-29-June-2011-25

From the Finding Carlton Team :  Many thanks Georgina and the Indian Express for your kind words and generous appreciation of this effort..!!

Correction: Carlton Kitto did not play with Monk or Dizzy…He did in fact sit in with and/or accompany Charlie Byrd, Larry Coryell, Stan Getz, Dr, Billy Taylor, and the Ellington Band, among others

The Ladies of Calcutta


We head to Calcutta on August 1, one year from our previous visit and will hopefully come back with the footage we are looking for..

In the meanwhile, memories from last years work and the songs and music remain…

Here are two brief clips featuring the voices from Calcutta..

Anjum Katyal
We follow Anjum , a singer, as she rehearses with Carlton, the band, and then in performance…Moanin’ is the tune, written by Bobby Timmons and made famous by Art Blakey, Wes Montgomery and many others

Smita Mishra
Smita’s debut performance brings her sound to video.. She came to learn guitar..and wound up singing in a concert setting..

We follow her through a lesson where she works on the Ellington tune..”Hit me with the hot notes” -, next a rehearsal – with “At Last” and then in performance with the Cole Porter standard – “Lets fall in love”

and for those of you know remember the original “Ladies of Calcutta”..here you go!