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Concert Review: Greg Banaszak Sextet, NCPA, Mumbai

The jazz juggernaut thrilled the NCPA with his powerhouse sextet and lively bebop

Jun 20, 2016
L to R : Theron Brown (Piano) Chris Anderson (Trombone), Dee Wood (Bass),  Andrea Soans (Jazz Vocal)  benny Soans (Drums) and Greg Banaszak (Saxophone) during the Jazz Concert Bebop & Beyond at Tata Theatre,NCPA on 17/06/2016. Photo By : NARENDRA DANGIYA

[L-R] Theron Brown, Chris Anderson, Dee Wood, Andrea Snitzer, Benny Soans and Greg Banaszak (Saxophone). Photo by Narendra Dangiya

“A juggernaut has traveled to Mumbai and has rolled into the NCPA tonight,” was how the emcee introduced the concert. And it was indeed a powerhouse sextet led by American saxophonist Greg Banaszak. Playing to a full house, the concert, “Bebop and Ballads” kicked off with the up tempo “Bird Lives” by Cannonball Adderley – his tribute to the father of the bebop movement in jazz. Of course, Bebop was the jazz revolution which was fast paced  improvisation by jazz musicians, with the emphasis on individual dexterity and mastery of their instruments. Banaszak’s band, with trombonist Christopher Anderson, pianist Theron Brown with support from Dee Wood on bass and Benny Soans on drums and complemented with vocals from Andrea Snitzer, had plenty of dexterity and skill to bring a lively evening of quality jazz to the Mumbai audience.

A succession of jazz standards, “There is no Greater Love”, “Lover Man”, “A Night in Tunisia”, “Autumn Leaves”, “Georgia on my Mind”, “The Old Country”- the last three  with vocals by Andrea  set the mood for the show in the first half of the concert.

Banaszak had composed a special number for this Mumbai concert, “The House that McLean Built” (for his mentor, famous saxophonist Jackie McLean) and performed it with a long sax solo. On  Bobby Timmon’s famous “Moanin'” pianist Theron Brown – who has just acted as Herbie Hancock  in the new Miles Davis biopic – showed his considerable skills with a beautiful introduction into the melody. This young pianist is destined to become a jazz great in the future.

Likewise on Nat Adderley’s “Work Song” and “There will Never be another You”, trombonist Anderson was quite masterful. In fact he was superb throughout. Chris Anderson has played with Aretha Franklin, Benny Golson, Clark Terry and several other  luminary jazz musicians.  A jazz trombonist on a Mumbai stage has been a rarity and we got one of the best in the business to play here. Continuing with well known jazz standards, the band played “Our Love is Here to Stay”, “Bebop”, “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing”, “God Bless the Child” and “Now’s the Time” as an encore following a standing ovation.

Greg Banaszak has returned to Mumbai after a year; he had then  played with the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) and re-created the immortal jazz album, “Bird with Strings”. His technique and skill on the saxophone are of a very high grade. At this year’s NCPA, playing in a different context – with a sextet, he displayed his dexterity once again. Greg is a soft spoken, modest man and his humility has rubbed off on his band members. We were treated to a concert devoid of ego or attitude. The concert was all about fine jazz and not about individuals, an ideal scenario.One of the criticisms from members of the audience was that announcements of the tunes played by the band were not always made; those who came for the jazz but were not familiar with the standards would have liked these identified.

The skills of the individual band members and their wonderful  combination made for a high level of live jazz performance. May we have some more, please?