Black Soul of Calcutta and Mussoorie


Nathan Rabe , who blogs as “Ajnabi” -from Melbourne, Victoria..wrote to us:
” What a story. Thank you for sharing it. I have just found your blog and have a passionate interest in music India and Anglo Indians..I am not one but have many friends from Allahabad, Karnataka, Madras etc.
– Ajnabi

We introduced Nathan to our friend Dr. Brad Shope (search this blog for more info about Brad’s contribution to this project) and the rest is on his Washermans Dog blog

The Ajnabi’s blog carried this post …worth the read ..and scroll down to the end of his post for a listen!

http://washermansdog-ajnabi.blogspot.com/2011/08/black-soul-of-calcutta-and-mussoorie.html

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Who Brought Jazz to India – Part III


Thanks for the feedback on this series featuring the work of Dr. Brad Shope , Texas A&M..
Part I and II are available here

Who Brought Jazz to India – Part I
Who Brought Jazz to India – Part II

As we conclude with Part III, we recognize , along with Brad, that there are others who have also undertaken a journey of discovery with regard to the origins and history of Jazz in India. This slide from our presentation at the Institute of Jazz Studies lists many contributors who work has helped with the historical background of this film.. Do take a moment to google some of the names, or peruse the blog for references to their work

Here is Part III

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

Piano Demon – The Teddy Weatherford Story


Sometime last August, while in Calcutta, we heard that a New York based writer was working on a project on Teddy Weatherford. His research assistant had located Weatherford’s grave in Park Street Cemetery and had contacted us via Carlton Kitto in the hope that we might have answers to some riddling questions relating to the “Godfather of Indian Jazz”.. Why we would not want to get in touch ? !!

This week sees the release of Brendan’s e-book on Teddy Weatherford,

Piano Demon

available exclusively through the Atavist on Kindle, via Amazon, as well as on iPad and iPhone!

Brendan has been a good friend to this project and we appreciate it. His research is meticulous and thorough and his writing tells the tale of a contender to Earl “Fatha” Hine’s stride piano prowess, … born in West Virginia, developed legendary piano chops in Chicago..and went on to march with the saints whils’t gigging in Calcutta !

While Brendan tells a good tale, indeed, we couldn’t resist celebrating his book with the accompanying Video which includes a rare first hand account of Teddy…. Has anybody else seen Mr. Weatherford ?

Narrating the story are, in order of appearance, Ajoy Ray (Kolkata), Jehangir Dalal (Mumbai), Dan Morgenstern (Newark), Naresh Fernandes (Mumbai), Louiz Banks (Mumbai) and our eyewitness, the last of Calcutta’s Big Band crooners !

Special thanks to Jenny Legget, the daughter of Cedric West, for photo..And the Oberoi Grand, Calcutta for their gracious co-operation.

Mystery Recording with Teddy Weatherford


Yesterday I made new friends of the film at the renowned  Institute  of Jazz Studies

http://newarkwww.rutgers.edu/IJS/index1.html

Dan Morgenstern (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Morgenstern). Ed Berger and others viewed the trailer and provided some amazing archival material including Downbeat magazine from 1945 and 1946 that referenced the jazz scene in Calcutta !

Dan produced a rare 78 recording, on the Columbia label, made by the Gramophone Company of India, in Dum Dum , Calcutta. He believes that this was recorded by Teddy Weatherford in India and features a “hot Trumpet player”.. .

The mystery lies in that the label is what the Institute thought was an Indian language, but it does not appear to be one.  Is it Burmese ? we think its Thai .. can anyone translate it ?  What is interesting is that in the 1940’s the old Gramophone company of India was releasing Jazz in language labels other than English !.. The archivist Tad Hershorn at the Institute showed me late ’30’s jazz ’78 rpm pressings from India including one featuring the hottest French tenor sax player of the time Alix Combelle !

Can any one translate the label for the Institute ? Dan and his associates would be most grateful .

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.

Great Guitars – Via Calcutta


In 1942  ,  two young, self taught jazz guitarists , arrived in Calcutta from  Burma, the eastern most outpost of what was British India.  Fleeing on foot, barely ahead  of the Japanese, were part of Reuben Solomon’s Jive Boy’s..one of the hottest bands in Rangoon.

Rangoon 1940 - LR Paul Ferraz sb, Reuben Solomon cl, Dean Wong vcl, Cedric West gtr, Ike Isaacs gtr

Cedric West’s talents got him quickly hired by Teddy Weatherford and was soon recognized as the leading jazz guitarist in Calcutta.  He appears on many Teddy Weatherford sides.  Cedric West went to England in 1947 and went on to become a respected session man, recording with Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones and Elmer Bernstein. He was a close friend of Joe Pass. He went on to hold down the guitar chair in the BBC jazz band and is described by Mike Edmonds as “he was a master bebop player and played with his thumb like Wes”.  His daughter Jenny Legget has been generous with providing lots of information about him which will appear in a future post dedicated to Cedric West.

Ike Isaacs went from Calcutta to Mussoorie and played in a hotel there until he left for England on  a scholarship around the same time as Cedric.  Ike was also self taught. Described as a master technician, Ike Isaacs was the dominant guitarist in English jazz until the mid-1970s.  Ike is featured in the list of the great jazz guitarists. He played with all the greats, including a 2 year world tour with Stephane Grapelli. This documentary from Spiros Mavrengelos documentary includes a rare clip of Ike and Grapelli together.  Listen to his story and his masterful playing.  

For the last fifteen years of his life Ike lived and taught in Sydney and became a much loved member of the Sydney jazz community.

Quite a story for two selftaught young men who passed through Calcutta and benefitted from the jazz culture of the time ..and proved to the world that jazz musicians from the subcontinent could be worldclass !   Aptly, many years later, Cedric West released an album titled “West meets East”.

The Paul Gonsalves and Teddy Weatherford – Resolved ?


In a prior post , (see Paul Gonsalves- Teddy Weatherford) my research suggested that the Paul Gonsalves listed in Teddy Weatherford’s Calcutta discography was the Paul Gonsalves of (later) Ellington fame.  Understandably, there were various reactions from the readers of this blog that challenged and questioned this possibility..Thats why we are jazz people..its a personal music !

The issues raised ranged from whether Paul Gonsalves was ever in Calcutta, to an insightful observation that on the Teddy Weatherford recording the listed Paul Gonsalves played Alto, while the real Paul Gonsalves “only recorded on Tenor”

Scroll down on this link to see  comments on that post .

Great feedback!

I continued to research this possibility , and found several sources that authenticated that Paul Gonsalves did serve as a young serviceman in Calcutta, and that he had played Alto in his youth. But, frankly, the reference to the Alto Sax continued to elude me.

I responded:

“Whats also interesting is that unlike popular belief, although he did play tenor in the Ellington band, the real Paul Gonsalves did in fact play alto. (Show me a sax player who cannot double !  )..There are people who   state emphatically that he was only a tenor player, but as I said, show me a sax player who cannot double ! In fact both Coltrane and Jimmy Heath migrated from Alto to Tenor

When Paul Gonsalves  played with Sabby Lewis in Boston, on his return from service in India, in the 46-47  period he played Alto.  In 1948 on a Radio transcription with Basie, he played guitar !

Regardless, we know for a fact that the famous Paul Gonsalves was a) indeed in Calcutta at the same time as Weatherford  b) did play with Weatherford and c) probably played on Weatherfords broadcasts for Armed Forces Radio Service

What is also a fact that the young Paul who was in Calcutta in 1942 or thereabouts had not yet developed his fame or renown, or his troublesome relationship with heroin and alcohol  (that came later in 1950 with the Gillespie band). He was just another young “colored” serviceman in Calcutta – (actually Cap Verdean, not African American)  This probably is why nobody seems to remember him.. he was just a horn playing serviceman”

Just today, I received from Jenny Legget, the daughter of the astoundingly talented Cedric West who played with Teddy’s band from 1942 through 1945 , an article from Storyville Magazine (June-July 1976) on Teddy’s band that clearly states:

” There were however, many “sitters- in” for despite the drabness of the band’s daytime repetoire, at night it was one of the hottest bands in Calcutta.  The most famous of the ‘extra’s’ was Paul Gonsalves , then a truck driver in the Quartermaster’s Corps. who used to borrow an alto sax from the Services’ club and jam with the band”

The article also quotes Reuben Solomon (alto sax) (leader of the Jive Boys) ” When Teddy wanted to play, he could play, but he didnt want to play often. He would get the boys offstage for two brackets with the rhythm section and the front line, more Dixie format, but modern for those days. Gonsalves was there when Teddy had the jazz bit. Teddy, the rhythm section, Gonsalves and myself”.

Thanks Jenny, for digging this up along with all the material on Cedric West,..who will soon have a post on this blog about his guitar talent and story.