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Gig Reviews

A Night at The Opera House

The opening of “Quarter”, a jazz club plus plus on October 25th

Sunil Sampat Oct 27, 2017

A performance inside the Royal Opera House at the opening night of The Quarter. Photo: Kunj Sindhwad

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As in “The French” or “The Latin” Quarter conveying the air of a jazz dive, the Quarter is a spectacular, new jazz center. Located in the most beautiful and now elegantly restored Royal Opera House (so influential in matters Bombay/Mumbai that the entire surrounding area is called Opera House), this venue opened its doors on October 25th for an inaugural celebration at this SoBo location.

Just as this city needs its green spaces, it’s ‘lungs,’ it also needs a classy space for the aural arts. The Quarter promises to fill this space. The venue itself is a significant Mumbai landmark and one that thankfully has not perished under the pressure of modernization or to that nasty euphemism ‘development’ as have several other pillars of the beauty of old Bombay.

In fact the Royal Opera House was under restoration for a long period of time and available for use exactly a year ago. The owners, the Royal family of Gondal had several options for the use of the property. Thankfully, they chose to invite the Quartet (there goes that name again!) of Ashu Phatak, Ranjit Barot, Nakul Toshniwal and Nico Goghavala to come up with their project. They were all keen on creating a jazz establishment: they have created a classy one.

Bassist Mohini Dey with Tom Walsh on trumpet. Photo: Kunj Sindhwad

It was an interesting coming together of events that led to these four entrepreneurs forming what is essentially a jazz club plus. The property houses four sites, each being–what else? A Quarter! The auditorium section will host, of course, live music (hopefully jazz), a “Live Section,” really a bar with a stage and the atmosphere of a jazz club, a wine and cheese cafe and a coffee shop.

The opening night of ‘invitees only,’ predictably included Mumbai’s social glitterati and a host of jazz musicians (jazz glitterati!) and several jazz performances were heard. On the main stage at the auditorium, Ranjit Barot led a group of musicians which included the hugely talented Mohini Dey on electric bass, Vasundhara Vee on vocals, a saxophonist, a trumpeter, percussionist, pianist and Gulrej Singh on keyboards.

The music was energetic. The acoustics are outstanding and one looks forward to some seriously good jazz here. Barot mentioned that they have invited the likes of John McLaughlin (who Barot plays with), saxophonist Bill Evans (who has played in Mumbai’s NCPA) and brilliant trumpeter Randy Brecker (whom we heard in San Jose, California in August) to play at the Quarter in the coming months.

This is seriously pleasing news for jazz fans in Mumbai. After the demise of Jazz by the Bay and Blue Frog there is a need to fill the vacuum for a jazz nightclub. Ashu Phatak, who was one of the pillars of Blue Frog and is the co-founder and driving force of the True School of Music is the right person to ensure the jazz bar he has now founded will thrive.

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