If you had to ask someone which artistes come to mind at the mention of the word ‘jazz’, the response would probably include the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk and more. It certainly would not be Michael Jackson, Meghan Trainor or John Legend and yet these musicians made it to ‘Bring on the jazz’ . Organised by the Madras Guild of Performing Arts (MGPA) in aid of Lakshmi Palliative Care, and held at The Music Academy, the programme took the audience on a musical journey — from traditional jazz compositions to rearranged versions of recent pop hits..
Helmed by Atul Jacob Issac, a well-known conductor and the music director of the MGPA, an independent ensemble, the performance was indicative of long and dedicated rehearsal sessions. With special performances by Timothy Madhukar, Sangita Santosham, Sharanya Gopinath and Zippora Madhukar, the highlight of the evening was the piano performance, based on The Godfather theme tune, by the chief guest Mohammed Asif Ali, Dewan to the Nawab of Arcot.
As the curtains went up the MGPA senior ensemble took centre stage to perform ‘Blue skies’, originally sung by Irving Berlin, and popularised by Ella Fitzgerald. This was followed by The #Shortz, featuring budding musicians, the eldest being 11 years old. They performed ‘Billy and Ming’. Over the course of the evening, the senior ensemble performed ‘Birdland’, ‘Summertime’ and ‘This little light of mine’ — the last number didn’t fail to spread joy the intent with which it was composed. The #Shortz appeared again, this time with ‘On the sunny side’.
The solo performances were magical in their own way — be it the sultry voice of Zippora Madhukar as she sang a rearranged jazz version of ‘All of me’, originally performed by John Legend, or the rich voice of Sharanya Gopinath, which reverberated through the auditorium as she came up with a jazz arrangement of ‘Smooth criminal’, originally performed by Michael Jackson. Sangita Santhosham rendered ‘All about that bass’ in jazz style but she lit up the stage with ‘New York, New York’, a Frank Sinatra classic. Timothy Madhukar, who is always a joy to listen to, brought alive every song he performed. “Diggin on James Brown’ deserves special mention.
“We want to make music andwant to make it to help people . It’s our love for music that brings us all together. Art heals, art unites,” said Dr. Indira Hande, president of the MGPA.
Though the event was an effort to keep the spirit of jazz alive in Chennai, a few members of the audience didn’t quite seem to like pop hits being rearranged in jazz style. They felt it’s not doing justice to the genre, and cannot capture its true essence. But when music is moving beyond labels, events like ‘Bring on the jazz’ push boundaries for a wider reach.