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Tizaan Alphonso Showcases Extraordinary Experimental Jazz on Debut LP ‘Feel It’

The Mumbai-bred musician’s eight-track album includes groovy sing-alongs, dynamic instrumentals and more

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David Britto Mar 17, 2020

Mumbai-bred pianist-vocalist Tizaan Alphonso. Photo: Alan Reinders

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When your parents are both professional musicians, there’s a high chance that you might follow the same path. That is exactly the road Mumbai-bred pianist-vocalist Tizaan Alphonso chose after witnessing plenty of gigs and rehearsals of his folks’ funk-jazz/pop outfit Faith as a youngster in the early 2000s.

Alphonso would go on to form the successful but now-defunct funk/pop outfit Groove Gully with his sister, vocalist Zian Bhamgara. But according to the pianist, jazz was always his calling and the musician’s love for the genre has led to him releasing his debut eight-track experimental album Feel It recently. 

Currently in his final Bachelor year at music academy Conservatorium Maastricht in the Netherlands, Alphonso tells us that his love for jazz began after he heard American pianist Chick Corea’s 1986 album The Chick Corea Elektric Band. He says, “I said to myself, ‘I finally get what jazz is; improvisation.’” Alphonso’s goal as an artist has always been to create his own sound. “I wanted to combine my favorite genres; jazz, fusion and R&B/soul,” the musician says. 

Feel It glimmers with sizzling horn sections sandwiched between lush piano riffs, guitar solos as well as exciting bass lines, drum grooves, scats and dreamy vocals. ”By September 2019 I had already composed around 20 solid tunes,” says Alphonso. He adds, “It was truly the hardest part choosing the final eight tunes. I chose [to produce] a wild, daring  (American instrumental ensemble) Snarky Puppy kind of album.

‘Feel It’ artwork by Josephine Yeh.

Feel It opens with the funky jazz offering “Living in the City” which according to Alphonso is about reminiscing of his experience staying in Mumbai “where life is so fast-paced and challenging.” The Afro-Cuban instrumental number “Say What?” includes a mouthwatering piano solo on a bed of resilient percussion work. The catchy “Beyond the Stars” features scratch work by Dutch DJ Vindictiv while the title track is filled with raw emotion and exceptional instrumentation with scats at the beginning and at the end of the 10-minute earworm. On the complex title track, Alphonso twists and turns with a slick synth solo. 

The expressive and surreal “Devaneio” (denoting a dream-like state or reverie in Portuguese) was written when Alphonso was lost in his own thoughts one evening. He says, “While contemplating on how the years have passed, and how my future will be — wife, kids, a job, touring with the band. I just disappeared into deep thought thinking about the roller coaster of emotions that life throws at you, which makes it feel like a reverie.” 

Alphonso wrote the hopeful “Wildflower” for the kids suffering in Syria due to the political climate. “Each time I sing this tune, I express my sorrow and love for those children who have gone through so much,” he says. The final two tracks, “Perspective” and “It’s Our Time” are both R&B and soul leaning songs wrapped in plenty of musicality which, if heard in the right setting, make for a transcendent listen.

When Alphonso told us that he wanted to create his own unique sound, he wasn’t kidding. The extraordinary way in which he has treated each instrument on the album as a voice juxtaposed with his own creative direction, vocals, arrangement, odd time signatures and jazz as the base for this experimental album hits all the right spots.   

The album — which was crowdfunded — was tracked at KOKO Records in Sprimont, Belgium under the watchful eye of engineer Laurent Eyens. While Alphonso produced the record himself, it was mixed and mastered by Dutchman Ron van Stratum. Apart from Alphonso handling keys and vocals, Feel It also features Luxembourg backing vocalist Marie Weis, German saxophonist Gregor Oehlmann, Columbian trumpet player Gustavo Andres Jaramillo and drummer Mateo Montes, Italian guitarist Filippo Pizzoli, bassists Peter Willems (Netherlands) and Yannick Heselle (Belgium) and Cuban percussionist Michael Escuriola Verdacia. “I met all of them at my music conservatory,” says Alphonso. 

Next, the musician has plans to work on music videos for two songs off the album. He also wants to get the music on radio stations in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany. Although Alphonso had planned a tour to support the album in the Netherlands and Germany he has had to postpone it due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The pianist also wants to return to India later this year to perform along with his sextet. He says, “I just want to get my music out there and get some recognition as an independent jazz artist.”

Hear ‘Feel It’ below:

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