`Indian rhythms, American jazz coming together`

Updated: Nov 02, 2011, 12:20 PM IST

New Delhi: Indian rhythm concepts are quickly becoming a part of the American jazz language, said a leading New York-based jazz ensemble, Paul Beaudry & Pathways.

"There are jazz drummers in New York who are studying the tabla- and using tabla rhythms directly on their drum sets. Many Indian musicians are teaching at American Universities," Tim Armacost, the tenor saxophonist and flutist of Pathways, told IANS here.

Pathways was in the country under the "Rhythm Roads: American Music Abroad", a project that has sent 150 new musicians from 39 jazz, urban and American roots bands to 100 countries since 2005 to foster people-to-people contact. The project, launched six years ago in partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, was brought to India by the US embassy.

Pathways, formed in 2008 in New York features bassist and jazz vocalist Paul Beaudry, Tim Armacost, drummer and vocalist Tony Jefferson and pianist and keyboardist Bennet Pastar.

The band which performed in the capital Tuesday played from a repertoire of Latin American melodies and old American classics with a surprise for India - a 1950s style jazz arrangement of a track, "Yeh Dosti..." from the 1970s Bollywood hit "Sholay".

Armacost, who lived in the Indian capital 20 years ago, "studied the tabla with exponent Vijay Ateet".

"I use the `tihai` - the classical Indian poly-rhythmic note - in both my improvisational and combination melodies," Armacost said.

A `tihai` comprises three equal repetitions of a rhythmic or melodic composition.

The band members have more than 30 years of experience in jazz music as individual performers.

Inspired by jazz legends like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock and Sam Jones, Pathways plays original compositions and arrangement with standards from jazz`s broad stylistic genres.

It`s oeuvre is world music - that includes powerful Indian, Latin American and Asian sounds.

"It took us (the jazz fraternity) 100 years - but we have finally discovered the 2,000-year-old Indian tradition of drumming," Pastar told IANS.

"Miles changed the contours of jazz music at least six times with every new collaboration," Beaudry told IANS.

"Miles was the first person to hire Indian musicians to play with him in the 1970s for his world jazz fusion repertoire. One of his famous band members and collaborators John Coltrane, was deeply inspired by sitar maestro Ravi Shankar and assimilated from him," Beaudry said.

"Coltrane and Davis created an experimental jazz - the `modal jazz` in the 1960s where the musicians took one mode or scale instead of a complex harmonic progression - and simplified the harmony," Beaudry said.

Modal jazz led Coltrane to explore the music of the Indian `ragas` on his saxophone, Beaudry said.

Beaudry puts the popularity of jazz as a global musical genre to the fact that "it has assimilated from music from all over the world despite its Afro-American origin".

"Jazz had not existed in its present form in other country though it is a synthesis of elements from all over the world. This synthesis is like a chemical reaction," stated Pastar.

This spirit of synthesis and fusion drives Beaudry and his team.

"We take songs and music from countries. We tour and arrange them into our traditional jazz formats," Beaudry said.

But jazz needs a visual medium for promotion, Beaudry suggested. "It is a niche music even in its land of birth - the US."

"Video music has hurt music like jazz which requires active listening and thinking," he said.

IANS