Gig Review: Three Legends Concert, Mumbai
New Delhi vocalist Sanjeeta Bhattacharya performed a selection of jazz songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin
If this concert were to be summarized in just one word, it would be “delicious.” This New Delhi based jazz quintet treated a full house at the Tata Theatre, NCPA in Mumbai to an evening of sophisticated vocal jazz. Sanjeeta Bhattacharya performed a selection of jazz songs identified with three divas of song: Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and the recently deceased Aretha Franklin.
This was not an easy task as each of the ladies being lauded had entirely different styles of delivering their songs. Bhattacharya overcame this hurdle like a good jazz singer, by making all the songs her own instead of attempting to emulate the originals. She was backed very ably by Takar Nabam on acoustic guitar, Sonic Shori on bass, Aditya Dutta on drums and the outstanding Rythem Bansal on piano.
As if to accentuate the role of the piano for the evening, Bhattacharya and Bansal opened the concert with a piano-vocal duet. Singing “I’ll Take Manhattan” in a tempo slower than usual, both the singer and pianist were able to show off their ample skills. This set the tone for the quality of jazz for the evening and the audience was immediately hooked. The bass, guitar and drums then joined in and embellished the vocal performance.
In the most subtle way, Bhattacharya and her band saluted not only the three vocal giants as advertised but also the songwriters and lyricists who provided the beautiful material that was performed. We heard the music of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Gershwin, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie (“A Night In Tunisia”), H. Gillespie (“You Go To My Head”), Duke Ellington (“Sophisticated Lady”), and a few others as also compositions by Billie Holiday (“God Bless The Child”) and the Carole King classic, “Natural Woman,” immortalized by Aretha Franklin. The band mixed their song selection quite judiciously by interspersing different tempos.
The swing of “Sunny Side Of The Street,” the melody of Errol Garner’s “Misty,” the gospel ‘shout’ of “Son of a Preacher Man”, the romance of “Crazy He Calls Me” or the ballad artistry of “Blue Skies” all created the ideal mix of moods and tempos to hold the audience riveted to the performance. The connect between the musicians and the audience seemed complete and was expressed by a standing ovation from the 600 strong assembly.
None of this would have worked without the fine skills of Bhattacharya and her band of very talented musicians, individually and as a group. We hope to hear a lot of good jazz from them in the future.
Going by the evidence of Saturday’s concert two things come to the fore about the Indian jazz scene: One that jazz in India is in good hands and the other that appreciative audiences are ready and eager to listen to them!