Sax and the City
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It was in the little-known but alluring city of San Sabastian in Spain that drummer and composer Ranjit Barot heard the powerful notes of avant-garde jazz, being played on a saxophone. Barot was touring with 4th Dimension — a popular band created by legendary English guitarist John Mclaughlin and was hooked to the sax notes he heard that day. The musician was Grammy-winning saxophone player Bill Evans, who was going to collaborate with Mclaughlin for the same concert. "His style of playing was so spontaneous. When I was approached for a series of concerts in India, I invited Bill to be a part of this project," says Barot, while on his way to Blue Frog near Qutub Minar for the first few jam sessions and sound checks. The two are in the city with an ambitious jazz project that will come to life at Blue Frog tonight.
On his first trip to India, Evans, who also shares his name with a famous American jazz pianist, has worked with trumpeter Miles Davis, Grammy-winning banjo player Bela Fleck and widely acknowledged American pianist Herbie Hancock. But in spite of being one of the more uninitiated musicians when it comes to Indian music, he played with ace percussionist Trilok Gurtu almost 11 years ago. "I discovered quite a few nuances of Indian rhythms while working with Trilok. It is inspiring for me to immerse myself into something new, and then see what I can add to it. After I met Ranjit, I figured that our styles blended very well. Even when we played the same set more than once, the sound was fresh and moved with a natural progression," says Evans, who began with playing the piano but discovered sax when he was 11-years-old.
"The sound just seeped through. The Delhi gig will be a mishmash of Indian rhythms combined with jazz," says Evans, who also agrees with the similarity between Indian classical music and jazz tunes when it comes to improvisation. Barot has also roped in bassist Etienne Mbappe from Cameroon and guitarist Marc Guillermont from France for the gig. "When it comes to music, change is the only constant. Also, in case of jazz, we blend various genres of music and combine a lot of things. All of it however, has to be done in right proportions to make sure that it does not turn into a wreckage," says Barot, who will be playing with Evans in Mumbai on Thursday.