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Concert Review: Latin Jazz at NCPA, Mumbai

Bassist D.Wood, sax player Carl Clements, pianist/keyboardist Karim Ellaboudi and more bring to life exciting polyrhythms and fiesty tunes straight from South America to the National Centre of Performing Arts

Sunil Sampat Aug 09, 2016
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mongo santamaria

It was a much overdue jazz theme that needed airing. Latin Jazz, with its exciting polyrhythms from Cuba, Brazil, the Caribbean islands and South America in general is exuberant and extroverted but needs skillful handling. On Mumbai’s jazz scene, a Latin jazz concert was keenly awaited.  A house full audience was present for the concert played by a quintet led by  bassist D.Wood. Carl Clements, playing tenor and soprano saxophones as well as a bansuri, Karim Ellaboudi on piano and keyboards, Aron Nyro on drums and Anand Bhagat on congas and percussions made up this quintet.

We had been promised, in addition, a professional dance duo demonstrating a few traditional dances like the rhumba or samba to accompany the music. This duo was however unable to make it for the concert.

The concert opened with Dizzy Gillespie’s evergreen composition ” A Night in Tunisia” which set the mood for the evening. “We are riding on the shoulders of the jazz giants,” announced D Wood, referring to the Latin compositions of jazz musicians; they continued with Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue”, Chick Corea’s “Armando’s Rhumba”, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova “Trieste,” Charlie Parker’s “Barbados,” Cedar Walton’s “Bolivia,” Duke Ellington’s evergreen “Caravan” and Wayne Shorter’s “Ju Ju.”

Carl Clements visiting from the U.S. displayed his skills on the bansuri with an original composition, which has been used as a theme in a South American film.

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Karim Ellaboudi excelled on both piano and keyboards. One may witness him play in several jazz concerts — and other contexts — but it seems as if Karim was born to play Latin jazz! He was superb throughout. His own composition, “Latin Fiesta” transported us into Cuba with the compelling rhythms from that country.

Aron Nyro, from Budapest [and a temporary Mumbai resident] was always on top of his game. He is from the new generation of drummers who are technically very proficient and precise. His playing was immaculate. Aron is from the Dave Weckl style of drumming as opposed to, say, Tony William’s or Max Roach’s.  Anand Bhagat on various percussion instruments lent the requisite flavour to this Latin set with his subtle inputs.

The leader and bassist, D. Wood anchored the evening brilliantly. He seems to have somehow narrowed the gap between an electric and an upright bass; the sounds from his electric bass made one do a double take at times to see if he had switched to the upright bass!

Wood also introduced five young boys toward the end of the concert. This group of his neighborhood boys have been trained by him over several years to play percussion, a part of his “gurukul” contribution. They played a short number with the Latin quintet. For the encore, D Wood and the band returned to the music of Charlie Parker, playing “Donna Lee”.

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Did the band miss anything? Perhaps the absence of the expected dance duo or maybe perhaps a vocalist on  one or two numbers. However, I don’t think the audience had any cause for complaint at all. I think they went away hoping this was a forerunner for many more sessions, Latin style. Perhaps tango or flamenco jazz next time?

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