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Dutch Trumpeter Saskia Laroo Returns to India This Weekend

The musician is scheduled to perform at the World Jazz Festival at Mumbai’s St. Andrews Auditorium

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Sunil Sampat Feb 18, 2020

Dutch trumpet player Saskia Laroo. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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A lady jazz trumpet player who sings is indeed a rarity. Dutch musician Saskia Laroo is this rarity. She returns to Mumbai after a fairly long absence to play at the World Jazz Festival at Mumbai’s St. Andrews Auditorium on February 22nd and 23rd. Three other international bands are also scheduled to perform at this jazz festival organized by Banyan Tree.

Laroo has played at Mumbai’s famous Jazz Yatra over 15 years ago. Her music was quite a hit with the Mumbai audiences at that time. To find out what to expect this time around from this jazz lady from the Netherlands, we posed a few questions to her. Excerpts:

We recall your nickname “Lady Miles” because of your style of trumpet play. But Miles Davis had a half dozen jazz avatars, different styles of playing the trumpet; so which Miles are you most like?

I learned about jazz when I was 16 years old and heard Miles’ version of ‘Someday My Prince Will Come,’ it sounded so easy and so beautiful I wanted to try and play it. It turned out to be not so easy! Later I heard the albums, Miles in Europe and the movie soundtrack from L’Ascenseur pour L’Echafoud from Miles. I loved the fast licks and lines. I loved bebop and the standards from Miles because he didn’t play the songs (for example ‘Autumn Leaves’) like I knew them; he was just making something very different out of them. It was so exciting.

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Later I discovered more albums of Miles Davis, so I didn’t stick to any one style of his. I made an album, It’s Like Jazz and another, Jazzkia. Critics compared my sound with Miles and I got my nickname!

In American jazz, there seems to be a return to mainstream sounds for the past few years. What is the trend in Europe? What do audiences look for in contemporary European jazz?

The American jazz scene seems to love the New York hip style of jazz instigated by the likes of Wynton Marsalis and earlier by Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw and even John Coltrane. It celebrates the music of Ellington, Monk and Louis Armstrong. In Europe, we have embraced this musical style but with due regard to our classical music background. Truth is that America is a melting pot of cultures and incorporates different influences. But having traveled to many countries, I find jazz (of some sort) everywhere.

How did you happen to choose the trumpet as your instrument?

I joined a music school at age seven and loved it. Later I was asked by a local brass band to join them. I had to choose my instrument and took to the trumpet. It seemed like a powerful feeling to get a sound out of it but didn’t take the instrument seriously as people thought it was a ‘lower class’ instrument to play. Other girls would play the guitar and sing songs. My parents got me a cello and I later got a guitar but when I was 16 I heard bebop for the first time and was totally captivated by it. Miles played the trumpet, so that’s my story!

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Music was still a hobby and I went to University to do mathematics but discovered you could make money playing music. I switched to music studies. However, I found that people were opinionated about what type of music one should play. I stuck to jazz and hopefully have brought joy to my listeners.

In Europe, the Netherlands and Norway seem to produce many more jazz musicians than other countries. Why is this so?

The educational system attracts students from all round the world. In both these countries, the jazz scene is also very well organized, so we are dealing with large numbers. It is easy to get into jazz here.

Who are the young musicians from your country that you are excited about?

Watch out for two new stars from the Netherlands – Sun-Mi Hong, originally from South Korea on drums and Kira Sprangers on the saxophone.

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