Rolling Stone India’s Jazz Playlist
This week hear jazz tunes that celebrate places
Jazz musicians have their own passions for places they might associate with happy memories. Many jazz tunes have been composed to celebrate these places, whether cities or countries.
I’m sure some will be surprised that Indian cities, New Delhi and Calcutta have jazz tunes named after them. They make this playlist. Also on the list is John Coltrane’s tribute to India. Apart from these three, the other six tunes listed here have their own associations and tales to tell.
By the way, these are all top notch jazz performances as well, not placed here merely because they follow a theme. Give them a good listen and travel to a few places without even leaving your music system.
1. “New Delhi” – Cannonball Adderley Quintet Plus
After the end of World War II, many British soldiers serving in the east stayed on in these regions. One of them, Victor Feldman lived in Calcutta and New Delhi for a few years. He was a superb jazz pianist and vibraharp player. He wrote this tune, “New Delhi.” Feldman played for a few years with the great Cannonball Adderley band. This recording session is from that period. I believe Cannonball was keen to come to India. Sadly, he never made it and died in his forties. This one’s for you, Cannonball!
2. “Bolivia”- Cedar Walton
Dedicated to the South American country by it’s composer, Cedar Walton. Cedar played in Mumbai at a Jazz Yatra in the late Eighties and again at the inaugural NCPA jazz festival in 2011.
3. “Parisian Thoroughfare” – Clifford Brown
This is a classic piece from the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet. This tune was written by pianist Bud Powell, whose brother Richie Powell plays on this recording. Listen to the simulation of Paris traffic in the beginning as you cruise down its thoroughfare!
4. “Isfahan” – Joe Henderson
This celebrates the city of Isfahan in Iran. Written by Billy Strayhorn who toured Iran and elsewhere with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. This version by Joe Henderson captures the flavor of the composition and perhaps also of its locale!
5. “Goin To Chicago Blues”- Joe Williams
If ever there was a well oiled jazz band, it would have to be Basie’s! Joe Williams, long time vocalist with the Basie Band weaves a special story around his leaving for Chicago.
6. “St. Thomas” – Sonny Rollins
Unlike the previous song, this is one about leaving Chicago (in the winter) to escape to the island of St.Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Composed by Sonny Rollins – who plays it here- this piece has become a jazz classic.
7. “A Night In Tunisia” – Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker
This concert has often been dubbed as the ‘Greatest Jazz Concert .‘ It has a super lineup of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, Max Roach and the tune’s composer, Dizzy Gillespie playing this great jazz tune.
8. “Calcutta Blues” – The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Back to India with this piece from Dave Brubeck. Composed when Brubeck’s Quartet toured India , the mood is inspired by the rhythms from a tabla. Drummer Joe Morello plays the drums using his fingers in the style of a tabla player.
9. “India” – John Coltrane
John Coltrane was quite enamored by Indian classical music, particularly by the sound of the shehnai from Bismillah Khan. In this composition, “India,” Coltrane tries to approach the sound of the shehnai, as he hears it, by using the soprano saxophone for the effect.