Gauthier Toux Trio, Tubes & Wires, Worldservice Project bring Jazzfest 2018 to a stunning finale
Kicking off Day Three of Jazzfest 2018 was Tubes and Wires from Germany, headed by Niels Klein. With a combination of woodwinds and electronics, they had a completely unique sound.
“The response that Kolkata gives this festival ever year and the fact that we have these international musicians coming here — that for me, is the biggest reward. Because Kolkata does not see so much international music the rest of the year. I’m always hearing from sponsors how there’s no market in this city and it would be better to do things elsewhere, and yet every year we manage to pull off a three-day festival! We have nine international bands, which really makes this the biggest festival in the country in terms of strength of line-up and diversity — and we do it against all odds,” said Varun Desai, the organiser of Jazzfest 2018, as he geared up for its final day.
Awed by the diversity of the sounds I had been exposed to over the last two days, I was eager to know how Desai curates the line-up. “See, jazz is interpreted differently by different people, so when you have jazz musicians from a variety of places, they always sound different from each other because they incorporate influences from their countries into their music. We are also open minded about the programming and to having music that might not be considered traditional jazz. Like afro funk, for example. And it goes back to the '70s when the jazz bands weren’t all traditional, there was some Krautrock stuff. When purists argue that we are doing something crazy, I say that people have been pushing the boundaries of what is considered jazz in every era and for us to do it with electronic music is fair,” he says.
The line up for Jazzfest's final day certainly pushed traditional genre boundaries. Kicking off Day Three was Tubes and Wires from Germany, headed by Niels Klein. With a combination of woodwinds and electronics, they had a completely unique sound. Their songs would begin in a floating, meandering way and then build into a frenzy. They were wonderfully weird and wacky. Influenced by science fiction, they played a song that was inspired by Tron. Speaking to me after his performance, Klein said his music is inspired by his favourite literature, from Asimov to Philip K Dick. “In science fiction, you have the more philosophical side like the aspects and theories, but you also have the more fun side, like spaceships and robots, and so similarly my music is complex and thoughtful but there’s still some fun aspects to it.”
The Gauthier Toux Trio from Switzerland and France came next, and completely switched the tempo. Melodic and lyrical, they were a lot more mellow than the previous band. They played their lilting tunes with an effortless precision to an appreciative audience. The vibe was proficient and smooth, and the ease and comfort level between musicians on stage palpable.
Closing the festival this year was the Worldservice Project from the UK. When they took the stage in costume, outfitted in military attire with blood (fake I hope!) and letters spelling the word "serve" painted on their faces, the audience knew it was in for something special. A frisson of excitement ran through the crowd. Then they began to play, diving headfirst into crazy, frenzied punk jazz and the audience went wild. They were grungy, high octane ‘bad boys’ of jazz, intent on rebelliously subverting the more staid aspects of the genre. Blending aspects of jazz — like solos and plenty of improvisation — with punk and rock, they had the audience head-banging along with them. Highly dramatic, with major theatrical elements and audience interaction, at times it felt a lot more like a musical than a jazz concert. The audience lapped it up enthusiastically, impersonating animals in pain for the song “Fire in a Pet Shop” and screaming for an encore when their set came to an end. On a serious note, the band is protesting the injustice that they see around them in society, for instance with Brexit. Speaking with this correspondent after the performance, Dave Morecroft — the band's principal composer — said that they are trying to send a message through their music. “We did the Remain campaign before the vote, when we were touring the UK, and got up on stage and told people, 'Please don’t vote to leave'. It’s an expression of art. Art has always played that role in society. Artists are the ones who can stand up without fear of judgement.”
With that, Jazzfest 2018 came to an end. Over these past three days we were treated to nine bands from seven countries playing a variety of original and interesting music that's left us eagerly looking forward to next year’s edition.
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