The Jazz Harp In Concert
American artist Susan Mazer Quartet’s performance at the NCPA, Mumbai last month will be long savored by everyone in attendance
Sandwiched in the midst of the hype of two concerts, one by John McLaughlin and the other the Mahindra Blues Festival was a unique, dazzling Jazz concert at the Experimental Theatre at the NCPA on February 9th.
It was a first, a jazz concert featuring the jazz harp played by American artist Susan Mazer from Reno, Nevada. There are very few examples of exotic instruments used in jazz performance. The harp has rarely been used. Very few recordings of the jazz harp are in existence. However, the legendary jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal introduced this instrument into his band for a while in the Eighties. Susan Mazer, who performed at the NCPA last Friday was in Ahmad Jamal’s band. She and saxophonist Dallas Smith played with Jamal on the album Rossiter Road (1986). It was this same duo that performed at the NCPA on Friday. At the concert, they paid a rich tribute to the maestro in a concert dedicated to Jamal. The band was augmented by Hungarian drummer Aron Nyiro and French percussionist Emmanuel Simon.
The sound of the harp can only be described as enchanting. Playing both melody and bass on the instrument, Susan Mazer had the audience eating out of her hands during the evening. She commenced with an unaccompanied solo with Luis Bonfa’s “Manha de Carnaval” from 1959 film Black Orpheus. She continued with Ahmad Jamal’s “If I Find the Way” and also his “Arabesque and Spain” in duo format with Dallas Smith on flute.
The quartet continued with Roland Hanna’s “New Times Good Times” and “Ahmad” by Mazer, dedicated, of course to the piano legend Jamal. A tune written by Dallas Smith, “Sabir Khan Song” included an amazing dance performance by Aditi Bhagwat, who added a welcome dimension to the concert. Bhagwat’s use of her ghunghroos on her feet gave the impression of a flamenco dancer, a totally new and welcome addition to the sound! She was brilliant and her inclusion into the act worked very well. Alas, she performed on only one number. Two further melodies, the haunting “Bulgarian Butterflies” and “Mariposa Negra” only added to the magic of the evening.
This was a rare, one-off concert, quite unique for Mumbai and one which will be long savored by those present.