Finding Paris – The French Connection


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

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

Thank you – The Telegraph – Calcutta

The Telegraph’s Aarti Dua contacted us about the Film, intrigued by its journey. The Sept 4, 2011 issue of the Telegraph carries her piece on Finding Carlton..

Thank you Aarti and the Telegraph. We much appreciate your interest in the film and its journey!

And just a small correction – Although we did preview this film in Bombay, we did not screen it at the Taj Hotel, Bombay, as reported…

Early Reactions – to preview screenings

We recently screened our work in progress rough cut to invited guests in Bombay and Calcutta..Here are some early reactions and comments

“it was a very sensitive and well written, visualized and conceptualized story about jazz as it was and is…in India….thoroughly enjoyable….
I am so happy that the 3rd generation of aspiring jazz musicians of future India saw the film and got blown by what they saw…it was very inspiring for them ..I hope I get to see your film sometime in the near future……”—-LB
“Thank you for that wonderful trek through history – for me it was a lovely account of the times, not just jazz. [I have these photographs of my parents engagement/wedding in 1959, beautiful women in waisted dresses and very clean shaven men (did they wax their chins or what!), sitting, drinking, dancing – a sax peeping out of a frame. You put all these black & white memories to music last evening, thank you.]

Carlton was a lovely storyteller, he has the smile of a 6 year old, that’s what probably kept him in Calcutta. When your smile grows up, it’s time to leave. Your docu was sensitive, even compassionate,” –MA

“Lovely film Susheel, really lovely, My 19 year old daughter enjoyed it too, so that’s suggest an appeal outside of jazz” —FK

It’s easy to make a straightforward documentary. What you used was in fact a great hook — Carlton. You told the story mostly through a musician who has straddled the generations.
My regret now is I never met Carlton who turns out to be a great guitarist plus a most interesting personality.
You allowed the individuals and the locations to speak for themselves and never seemed to impose your own ideas. That is commendable indeed.If I have one negative to share, it is that there was greater emphasis on a decaying and poor Calcutta than necessary.
By the way, I just loved the drummer with Carlton. —-FM

“It was a rare morning today as your film unfolded the past linked to our own growth period. Finding Carlton has a lot of parallels with The Buenos Vista Social club. Carlton reminded me of the unique characters from Cuba and I realised suddenly how many similarities there were- the loss of music, musicians, our priorities – after 1978-79. I had no idea that Jazz started in India in the 1920’s! As we move on, consolidating our losses, your film floods my heart with the nostalgia. The metamorphoses into Bollywood was amazing. Every person in the film was special and today was special to watch it ” –AL


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.

Niranjan Jhaveri




My personal thanks to you and your friends for letting me experience Jazz Yatra 1978 and 1980

My doors to jazz were opened wide and the music rushed in…and stayed

Niranjan Jhaveri – R. I. P. May 21, 2010

We mourn the passing of Niranjan Jhaveri – a passionate jazz fan, whose hard work, dedication and sheer love for the music propelled India into the eye of the Jazz World. Niranjan was a visionary who realized that Indian Classical vocal training was the ideal foundation for training a jazz vocalist…and his astute analysis led him to create JVI – the Jazz Vocal Institute through which he educated a worldwide audience and brought singers from all over the world to India to study and integrate India’s classical vocal tradition.

To his longtime friends he was simply “Niru” and some of their thoughts are shared below:

“Niranjan’s passing away means the end of my 50 year old friendship. He was primarily responsible for bringing jazz to India by organising jazz festivals since 1978. ” Soli

“It is a sad end to a courageous fighter against his cancer. There are so many memories over the decades of a good friend and a great lover and fighter for jazz in India.” Promodh

“I’ve often wondered how jazz would have developed in India if there had not been Niru Jhaveri. He was a game-maker and a game-changer. God rest him.” Stanley

“He put into reality many of the things that we were hoping to do..its been a long and deep friendship .there is too much to say”
“When  we were still listening to Eddie Condon and Mugsy Spanier it was Niru who introduced us to Dizzy and Charlie Parker”


” I am deeply saddened by Niru’s passing. To me, he was the man who put India on the jazz map with those outstanding jazz Yatras from 1978 to about 1990. Prior to that, old timers used to wistfully talk of having heard Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and maybe Jack Teagarden in Bombay or Calcutta. ……after the departure from Bombay in the mid 70s of Jehangir Dalal, Soli Sorabjee, Manek Davar and others to various places, Niru took up the challenge and had the drive to bring big jazz stars to India. I think we should stage at least one Jazz festival in India in Niru’s honour. He deserves no less.
I’m sure he is enjoying meeting all his favourite jazz musicians he has gone to join!
Goodbye, Niranjan.”

Our condolences to the Jhaveri family who were so gracious and generous with their assistance during our filming..

We were fortunate to be able spend some time with Niranjan in 2009 and document his thoughts and story on film Sometime later this week , I will post a brief video edit from that interview

In the meanwhile, you can see an extended video edit that incorporates conversations with Niranjan , here