Indo-Jazz Fusions Revisited
(Spice of Life, 16 November 2022, Review by Peter Slavid)
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Jazz in Britain today is a fabulous melange of influences from African, Asian, Caribbean and European styles as well as from classic American jazz. But back in the 1960s it was very different. Back then British jazz was almost exclusively based on American styles with very little influence from elsewhere. That all changed with the arrival of the Joe Harriott–John Mayer double quintet. It’s difficult to imagine now how strange that seemed back then as, for the first time, this mixed conventional jazz with non-American music and paved the way for the multiple influences we can hear today.
John Mayer arrived in the UK from India to study at the Royal Academy 70 years ago, in 1952, and it was to celebrate that anniversary that the Academy mounted this event. LJN interviewed John Mayer‘s son Jonathan Mayer talking about the project (link below)
Back in 1968, when I saw the original group at their Festival Hall concert, it was a revelation, and it was seen at the time as a piece of fairly serious, semi-classical music. John Mayer was after all a classical composer amongst other things. Last night’s concert at the Spice was very different – it was a party atmosphere from start to finish. The packed audience smiled. cheered, shouted, stomped and whistled at the end of, and sometimes during, every solo.
What was unique about this concert is that it was the first time that Mayer’s original music has been played again. What came across throughout was the quality of his compositions and the originality of his melodies. I gather the band worked from some of his original paper scores.
His son Jonathan Mayer is an established sitar player who has worked with jazz musicians in the past, and Nick Smart is Head of Jazz at the Royal Academy of music, and a fine trumpeter. Along with Tabla player Mitel Purohit they led a band of outstanding students from the Academy.
Kai Macrae on drums and Matt Hollick on Bass sounded as if they had been playing alongside a tabla for years, despite the unusual rhythmic pulses that threw at them. Kasper Rietkerk on soprano and flute; Donavan Haffner on alto; Scottie Thompson on piano and Ezo Dem Sarici on violin all contributed outstanding solos. Sarici‘s playing of John Mayer’s own violin part on Serenade was a poignant moment between some barnstorming sax and trumpet solos.
This project is too good to leave as a single concert, and the band clearly want to repeat the exercise. This is music that should definitely get a bigger audience.
Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on mixcloud.com/ukjazz and various internet stations
Categories: Live reviews