Thursday, December 13, 2007


This morning, jazz historian and writer Ashley Kahn came to the Blue Note to interview McCoy Tyner in the dressing room. The topic of the interview is being kept quiet (we'll find out soon enough), but when McCoy and Ashley Kahn get together, John Coltrane is never far from the topic at hand.......

Ashley Kahn is the author of some incredible jazz books, including "A Love Supreme," "Kind Of Blue," and his most recent "The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records."
Ashley Kahn and McCoy Tyner in the Blue Note dressing room, 12/13/07

1 comment: said...

History proves that some of the most epochal movements in the world have started innocuously, without great fanfare, without a mass hysteria. When Gandhi was forced to get off the train despite having valid ticket, it was initially a minor, innocuous incident. The rest is India’s history of independence. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama, and was arrested in December 1955, she set off a train of events that generated a momentum the civil rights movement had never before experienced.

Tin Pan Alley, that set the ball rolling for jazz and blues during late 19th century is actually the 28th street between 5th Avenue and Broadway in New York that earned its name to symbolize the cacophony of the many pianos being pounded in publisher's demo rooms. The Gaslight Cafe was a coffee house located in the basement of 116 Macdougal Street, Greenwich Village, New York City that showcased beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, and later became a folk club. Among those who performed at the Gaslight were Bob Dylan, Luke Faust, Richie Havens, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Eric Anderson, and Dave Van Ronk. Mississippi John Hurt played there. Jimi Hendrix sat in one night at the Gaslight with John Hammond, Jr.

Last weekend, when Alex Alvear from Ecuador, leader and bassist-singer of the New York based Mango Blue, a high-powered, 7-member music ensemble with its infectious and refreshing Afro-Latin and world music sounds announced to the audience at Blue Frog, “We’ve travelled all over the world and played at some of the best clubs in the world. Let me tell you that we have not yet seen or played at a venue like this. The acoustics and the sound of this place are absolutely brilliant, the lay-out of the place is the best we have seen, and the people at the club and Mumbai in general are the best in the world,” I felt the whisperings of a similar epochal moment in modern Mumbai’s history-to-be.

Those of you who have never tried acid in your life will come close to the exhilarating, hallucinatory, out-of-body lysergic trip at Blue Frog. And those who have, are bound to experience a backlash. You’ve got to try out the Blue Frog!

I don’t understand the technology of acoustics, but without doubt this place has been built for music first, second and third. Drinks and dinner take the back seats – literally. Most clubs in Mumbai bring in music to attract patrons who will sample their food and beverages. At Blue Frog, you come for the music and have the option to try out the impeccably presented F&B.

That is the biggest differentiator of the Club.

The exotic cocktails, the sanitised world cuisine, the round plush pods, the giant video-art screens morphing images aesthetically are the frills that add to the experience but music is the central – and peripheral – theme out here. Something that this city and this country has not yet seen. And from what I hear from musicians who have played out here, perhaps the world too needs to witness.

If a well-travelled NY-based band with members from Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Brazil and the US can swear by – in unison – the venue’s integrity to sound, music and musicians, I can almost taste the trend it might set globally when the promised Blue Frog Records, Blue Frog Studios and Blue Frog Production goes full stream in a few months.

The timing seems to be just right.

Music all over the world is undergoing a rapid evolution through technology and globalisation. iPod, iTunes, youtube, internet, kaaza, mp3, etc. changing the very basic tenets of music production and distribution. India and the new breed of urban Indians are at the forefront of this evolutionary process. Why should music from India be only classical Hindustani or Bollywood?

There are entire generations in India who have grown up and are seeped in what can roughly be defined as popular music from all over the world. Not just those Indians who have travelled abroad, but even within the country, there are millions of Indians who think in musical idioms that are not strictly ethnic to Hindustan. Its is not just the popular western music that many Indians have grown on, there are hordes among us who are as influenced and awed by the sounds that have been emanating from Africa, Latin America, Europe across several musical genres. Sure, the fact that we have a rich native sound and musical tradition will only help in establishing our own musical hegemony, so to speak.

If India can represent ITeS of the world, give me one good reason why we can’t create a global music destination in India? We have the talent, the skills, the market, the taste, and of course we have the musical pedigree, don’t we! Add to that the vast potential of a hungry audience combined with the latent talent within our country, and the stage seems perfect for setting off The Next Big Thing in the Global Music Scene.

In order to establish the Blue Frog concept, remember, geography is merely incidental. This concept is as valid in Mumbai, as in NY, London , Paris or Tokyo , or any cosmopolitan city of the world. Blue Frog is not only about studios or music production or club; it is an integrated experience unique in appeal and attraction to audiences all over the world. Blue Frog Label will, hopefully promote artists on merit. A band based in Meghalaya has as much chance and opportunity to display their talent and cut a disc as a band from Burkina Faso. It sure portends to have an attitude this country has not yet seen – from food to flamenco, from Daiquiri to Dylan, from bebop to hip hop!
Just for a nostalgic perspective, the Village in NY gave birth to the Bohemian lifestyle of the 50s-60s. Jazz is said to begin with the opening of Storyville, New Orleans’ famous red-light district. Its roots, however, run further back, and, like the roots of a marigold, are tangled, and draw sustenance from many different sources. The establishments in Storyville were not just centres for vice, they were a form of nightclub. Many of these brothels served liquor, and larger establishments would have a musician or a band. It was this opening-up of the job market that brought all sorts of musicians together, especially joining ragtime pianists with musicians from a more folksy blues background. Here musicians could hear and learn from each other and play together, merging their styles into a new thing: New Orleans jazz. The opening of Storyville is hailed as the most influential event in the invention of jazz. In the mingling of the many ethnic and musical strains in New Orleans, which occurred almost automatically in the laissez-faire climate of Storyville, New Orleans Style was born.
Maybe Mumbai still does not have that laissez faire climate yet, but who knows, the musicians and the audience from Mumbai, India and the world might well define and shape the scope of the Blue Frog Concept in the years to come.

I, for one, shall remain eternally hopeful.

Kinda reminds me of Blue Note Jazz Club in NY. When it started off, I bet the promoters had little clue that Blue Note Club will, one day set benchmarks for live musical acts ll around the world. Well, mark my words, sometjing similar is happening in Mumbai, India. Mango Blue was followed by the famous Portugese singer Sara Tavares. Then NY-based bassist, Fred Hamilton had a jam session at Blue Frog. Frank Gambale who plays at Blue Note this New Years just had a performace in Mumbai a week before Blue Frog was launched. This weekend, the Hungarian saxophomist Tony Lakatos is regaling the Mumbai audience with his gypsy jazz sounds.

Is there an exchange programme possible with Blue Note, NY, I wonder...