Narendra Kusnur's music musings …

Piano pizazz



Artiste: Sharik Hasan with the New York Quartet
Venue and date: Tata Theatre, Mumbai; June 19, 2013
Genre: Jazz
Rating: ****

FOR the past couple of years, there have been quite a few media reports about the talent of pianist Sharik Hasan. He’s done a few shows in Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, and many in the west, moreso in New York and Paris. Unfortunately, this blogger never got a chance to see him on stage.

So when one found out he was playing with the New York Quartet at the Tata Theatre on Wednesday, June 19, one didn’t want to miss the opportunity. It had been raining heavily from Sunday, but thankfully, the sun came out on the morning of the show.

The hall may have been 80 per cent full, with many seats empty at the side. Probably it was because of the rains. But whoever made it was in for a treat, as the quartet began sharp at 7 pm.

All four of them – Sharik, New York tenor saxophonist Adam Larson, double bassist Raviv Markovitz and Amsterdam-born drummer Philippe Lemm – were dressed in suits, with similar ties, with only Lemm taking off his coat and rolling up his sleeves. Musically, they were in uniform too, as they mostly played originals composed by Sharik, with a few older tunes thrown in.

The show was organised by the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in association with Jazz Addicts, with support from the True School of Music, Mumbai. For the next two hours or so, the four musicians impressed the crowd with some brilliant improvisations and great teamwork.

Both the adaptations were played in the first half. The great pianist and composer Thelonious Monk’s ‘I Mean You’ was played in a free-flowing manner, with Sharik excelling on the Steinway piano. Ace composer George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ had the saxophonist playing the standard melody in the beginning, before increasing the tempo to add loads of energy, to the accompaniment of a tight rhythm section.

The originals were charming too, with the compositions always introducing surprises. The band displayed marvellous coordination on ‘Waltz for Peach’, ‘Odyssey’, ‘Red’s Dilemma’ and ‘Ascension’, with the last seeing crisp bass-work and drumming. ‘Confluence’, which concluded the show, was loosely based on Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’, though Sharik added many layers to make it sound different.

In the end, one only wished the band had agreed to the crowd’s request and done an encore — maybe an interpretation of ‘Take Five’ as a tribute to late pianist Dave Brubeck, whom Sharik has seen in performance.

Born in Bangalore, Sharik has spent many years studying classical piano and jazz in the US and France. In Paris, he was part of an Indo-French trio, and in New York, he’s been playing with this quartet.

What was indeed heartening is that we saw a young Indian pianist who’s making waves on the international jazz circuit. In the past, Sharik has shared the stage with some masters like saxophonists Wayne Shorter, David Liebman and Joe Lovano, bassist John Patitucci and drummers Ralph Peterson and Adam Nussbaum.

Some of the others who are doing well in the west include alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, who is of Indian origin, and pianist Vijay Iyer, both of whom are doing regular gigs in New York.

Over the next two weeks, Sharik and the New York Quartet are also scheduled to play in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Goa. For jazz lovers in those cities, it would be definitely worth a visit.

RATING: * Terrible; ** Hmmm… okay; *** Decent; **** Super; ***** Simply out of the world


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