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In the early 50’s Jazz in India was largely ‘stuck’ in a time warp..the big bands  may have been replaced by smaller combo’s ..but what they played was “swing thing’..however a few musicians and fans had their ears tuned to new sounds that were coming in ..faster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

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

Alix Combelle – Update

Sometime last year we came across more material on Alix Combelle – the #1 European tenor man in the late ’30s – who resurfaced as a Calcutta bandleader !

see the blog post Alix Combelle – in Calcutta and the associated comments

We had found no archival material about Combelle’s time in India until recently, while reviewing material we had collected, we noticed that we did indeed have some documentation:
Note both these images are high resolution and can be clicked on to provide more detail

The only photograph we have seen of the Alix Combelle band playing in Calcutta

A letter, or a briefing wriiten in French by Niranjan Jhaveri which appears to been published in le Jazz Hot , June 1952 – “News from the Orient” communicating information about Jazz in the then Far East, with mention of swinging Manila, and other hot spots for Jazz. It references Alix Combelle “est toujours a Calcutta” amd that Rene Franc , ex clarinetist of the Orchestre Blaslavsky can be found in Bombay! . A full translation would be appreciated, as would any other information.

Every picture tells a story…The Trailer

Back from Bombay …and a  week of intense editing at Chrysalis Films..and finally a trailer that evokes what this film will be.

This trailer represents 2.30 secs of over 20 hours of footage, filmed in broadcast standard HD. We have used only a fraction of our collection of over 600 archival photos and the many hours of archival early jazz recordings from India. What you see below are highly compressed files to allow for streaming,. If you are interested in seeing the HD quality version, please contact me.

High bandwidth version:

For slower speed connections try:

Unending thanks and appreciation for my lovely wife and my incredible family for the constant support; and the same for the creative team and collaborators in NYC, Virginia,Kolkata and Mumbai and other cities that have worked on this, right from when we started this journey a year ago. Your shared passion for the project is what has kept me going. Your creative talents set a very high standard that I am challenged to keep up with.  To the fine folks in Mumbai who helped make this trailer happen, you know who you are..your support for this project, both emotional and financial, your advice, creative input, mentoring and friendship is beyond earthly value. To the advisors who took time from their busy professional day to preview this trailer, thanks muchly.your honesty and directness are appreciated and valued.  To the musicians who gave their musical capital so freely and without question, I cannot thank you enough..this film is for all of you. And to the person who said “Saala, drop every thing and just make this film” – your words are better than anything you have written in your award winning movie scripts and screenplays! And of course thank you Blue Frog for  launching the trailer at the fantastic Richard Bona gig!Thanks to all of you who have followed this blog and supported this project because of your love for jazz.

The Calcutta Concert

It would be great if someone who attended the concert at the Palladium Lounge in Calcutta could comment on the evening.  The concert reunited three musicians who had not played together for many many years. The musicians were Carlton Kitto – gtr, * Clive Hughes -drms,vcls  *  George Chator – upright bass * Arunava -piano. The evening featured guest vocals by Anjum Katyal, and Smita Mishra.  Here are a few production stills. (courtesy Sunil Shanbag) We will put some more  stills up next week.  If you have photos, please send to us. And please,  share comments

Our Introduction to Anto

Ajoy Ray in Calcutta introduced me to Anto..Here is the email that he sent:

I just thought of someone still around in Cal who was around heavily in the ’50s, ’60s & ’70s.
Anto Menezes, the vibes player. He’d be able to enlighten us on this area. I used to see him in the ’60s at Mocambo’s on Sunday morning live jazz sessions.. Let me see if I can contact him.

In a live session in the mid – ’70s for our Jazz Club which simply blew our minds was a superb, superb version of “Straight No Chaser” arranged by Louis (who’s this recent ‘z’?) Banks, and played by Braz Gonzalves, Louis himself, Anto on vibes, Bosco Monserate (our own budding Freddie Hubbard) on trumpet, Carlton on guitar, Iggy D’Souza on 2nd tenor sax (a massively leaking one, as Dave Liebman later discovered), Peter Saldhana on bass & Johnny Edmonds (with his Afro) on drums. Wow! I haven’t forgotten, tell Louis.

Thanks Ajoy.

Sad news


Hi, and thanks for the update. Wonderful to know you got so much great material. Sadly, we lost Anto just a little while ago. He developed gangrene in one leg which had to be amputated, and I guess his heart couldn’t take it. He had a heart attack and passed away. I just got to hear of this, and was planning to write and tell you. Your footage of Anto is probably the last documentation of him.
Warm regards

This is really sad news. we met with Anto Menezes on July 26th. Anto’s brother is the swingin piano player , Mohsin, in Delhi. The Menezes family came from Colombo. Anto was a gentle and charming person who loved his music. He showed us his ancient vibraphone which was acquired from a British vibraphone player circa 1946. Anto played for us on this beat up instrument and showed us how he voiced chords with inverted roots etc ..and how he left space for the other instruments.. It was a shock to hear that he has passed on… Anto Menezes was 78 years old. There are many other musicians whose stories we need to capture, we are grateful that we could meet with Anto and document his story. Here are a few pics. ..the one with the piano , according to Anto, is to be credited to Tina Ambani, and is from a magazine article.

CLICK on this underlined link to see an article by Ian Zachariah

Somini has a question


Thanks for the update, and congratulations. How does one find georgie, the only upright bassist in calcutta?


Thanks m accordingto Carlton, and Clive Hughes..he is the only “fellow who can play bass” …they have his contacts… George Cheator (spelling) may be found occasionally lugging his beaten up vintage bass in a yellow Ambassador Taxi … Here is a picture of George