Tag Archives: Arati Rao Shetty
Classic Wild at TheBflat Bar, Bangalore
The Kaya Quintet at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore
When I stepped into BFlat on 25th Feb 2012, I was sure that I was in for a musical treat. Arati Rao Shetty’s The Kaya Quintet was performing that evening, and like previous occasions, she had invited some immensely talented musicians to accompany her. This time, she had along with her Aman Mahajan on Keys, Keith Peters on Bass, Arjun Chandran on Guitars and Amit Mirchandani on drums.
B Flat is famous for hosting some of the best acts in the country; the place was spacious, the dim lights were beautiful and the waiters were very friendly. I arrived at this lovely place half an hour before the band started with its performance. Eventually, more people started coming in and the band, sans Arati, took to the stage.
Arjun started fiddling with his guitar and came up with some melodious licks and soon Aman joined in with some beautiful jazz chords, wonderfully complementing the guitar. The drums kicked in soon and Amit, who was using mallets, displayed some clever use of cymbals. Keith, having finished tuning his bass, then joined in with some solid walking bass lines thus initiating a structured, 3-song-long jam session. The last song in the jam session consisted of an interesting display of the “trading fours” technique in which the musicians alternated brief four-bar sections with the drummer.
The first thing that one would notice about B Flat is the marvellous sound. Even though on that particular day, the balance was a tad off (the bass seemed to be overpowering the guitars and keys), the overall sound was reasonably good. Secondly, one would observe the dexterity of the musicians performing. Aman Mahajan, who has a degree in music from the Berklee College of Music, Boston, was equally good with both his hands. The last time I had seen him perform with the Gerard Machado Network, he was performing the low-end duties with his left hand while playing pleasant chords and harmonies with his right. Amit Mirchindani is an amazing drummer and I think his drum solos were very intelligently arranged and executed. Arjun Chandran has a very interesting style, and he often peppers his solos with beautiful staccato style licks and has a vast repertoire of chords which gelled with the instrumental solo sections. Keith Peters needs no introduction. A.R Rahman has not recorded with any bass player other than Keith Peters after 1992, when he first jammed with him. However, I was a little disappointed that Keith did not play his funk style slap pop bass solos as he did the last time I had seen him performing with Amit Heri.
The fourth song (and the first with Arati) was ‘All Or Nothing At All’. This song was composed by Arthur Altman in 1939. I really liked Arati’s powerful vocals and the song seemed eerily haunting yet immensely captivating to me. I’ve been humming this tune ever since I heard it at B Flat.
After this, the crowd was treated to a series of covers of famous jazz numbers such as ‘A Night in Tunisia’ by Dizzy Gillespie and ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ by Richard Rogers. An interesting point about Arati’s singing style is that she takes vocal solos in between verses, humming out tunes, a style which vaguely reminds one of Chick Corea. The bass lines in the track ‘Song For My Father’ by Horace Silver, contained a lot of double stops and slides which wonderfully complemented Aman’s solos.
The band then played the 1941 Gene de Paul composition, ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’, a sad and dramatic song, ending it with a tasteful guitar solo. The song that followed, ‘Rio de Janeiro Blue’ by Randy Crawford, was a peppy upbeat number. I feel the band was impeccably tight in this particular song and Keith’s bassline was irresistibly groovy. Next up was ‘Round Midnight’ by Thelonious Monk, a slow haunting number, performed by only Arati and Aman. The band then proceeded to perform ‘Tokyo Blues’ by Horace Silver followed by ‘At Last’, an Etta James cover. The song ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ was up next, the arrangement for which was done by Aman. The time was close to 11 p.m. and Arati and the gang brought the proceedings to an end by performing the catchy ‘Come On In My Kitchen’ by Robert Johnson, ‘Speak Low’ by Kurt Weil and ‘Just One Of Those Things’ by Cole Porter.
The crowd seemed to absolutely love The Kaya Quintet which was quite evident when Arati asked everyone what the time was (at 10:45 p.m.) and the people seated promptly replied, “It’s just 9 p.m. Please continue playing!” I left BFlat at 11:15 p.m. with a happy feeling, humming to myself the tunes I had heard that night. On the whole, it was an incredible show that left me keenly looking forward to their next performance.
The Kaya Quartet at The BFlat Bar
This is a line-up that I thought I’d never see – with Arati Rao on Vocals, Aman Mahajan on the piano, Sharik Hassan on Organ, and Adrian D’Souza on Drums. Being a jazz keyboard player myself, when I first heard that Sharik and Aman were going to be on stage together, I knew that I HAD to see this show. And I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that this happened to be one the best jazz shows I’ve attended this year.
BFlat, as always, was very welcoming, with an amazing line-up of tracks to set the mood before the band came up on stage. This is a pretty important aspect that many venues overlook. When the band took the stage, they jumped right into their first track with a bombastic instrumental Bossa tune. I was completely floored by this track. It looked completely improvised and each of them played through it so well. D’Souza was holding a solid groove without being obtrusive, while Sharik’s insane bass section blew me away instantly. Of course I partially attribute the awesomeness of the organ (no pun intended) to the Nord Electro 3, and I don’t think Sharik would disagree. The first track reminded me of how amazing the mix always is at BFlat. And as every musician knows, a great mix makes a huge difference to what the audience hears, and in turn how the band plays.
The set moved on to some jazz standards – D’Souza really came to the front with this tune. His drum bombs really killed it. Kenny Clarke would’ve been proud. Not too many drummers have the opportunity to use this technique in the context of jazz in India, and it’s nice to see that it’s not a dead art form. After all the three of them went through their solos, they started trading lines of 8 bars each. It was amazing to watch them do it so effortlessly, each of them displaying such maturity in the lines that they chose.
Arati Rao jumped into the set with the third tune with ‘Route66‘, a Bobby Troupe classic. The rendition seemed to be that of Nat King Cole’s, with even the pronunciation being very reminiscent of his recording of the tune. Right through the track, all I could imagine was his broad, toy-like grin. I was even half expecting Arati to imitate that legendary smile. Arati killed the intro to the tune with her amazing scat – very tight.
The set moved rather quickly from here, being all vocal driven tracks, some of the more popular tracks were ‘So Nice’, ‘Someone who’ll watch over me’ and ‘All or nothing at all’. I have a whole bag of superlatives to describe each of these tracks, which I won’t do for brevity’s sake.
The band proceeded to pay tribute to Amy Winehouse. In light of her untimely demise, it seemed fitting, especially with Arati’s amazing vocal range. With a beautiful Bach-esque intro from Sharik, the band played ‘Back to Black’, which moved me tremendously. I truly miss that beast of a musician! Amy, we will always remember you.
Towards the end, Arati invited Priya Mendens to the stage. Priya was introduced as a veteran singer from Mumbai, and the rest of us needed no introduction to Priya. Priya sang ‘All of Me’ with the trio backing her up. Priya is a completely different kind of singer in comparison to Arati. Her tone is rich and classic, reminescent of Sarah Vaughn, while Arati has a more contemporary clear voice. Priya did an amazing job with the jazz standard. I was pleasantly surprised by her improvised scat while the boys were soloing – quite remarkable.
I was very impressed with the band. I remember seeing Arati Rao doing a track with TAAQ long ago at B-Flat. She is amazingly talented; I’m hoping to see her do more gigs. Every time I see Adrian D’Souza play, he surprises me. Just when I think that I’ve seen what he can do, he comes back with more! Having seen the Sharik Hassan Trio a couple of years back, I would say that this show definitely did not highlight Sharik’s ability, but then again if you knew where to look, he did display his skill from time to time, hidden in little changes or voicings here and there. Through the whole show, I was floored by Sharik’s bass-lines. They were not too obvious, yet not too easy, just the right amount to fill up the bass section while leaving room for his right hand to think independently. With Aman, I haven’t really seen him put in such a tight spot before, in terms of his role to the entire sound. Of course, I’m not taking away from his ability, merely commenting that this was the first time I’ve seen him in a minimalistic line-up. And he truly held up very well. A lot of sections were very Chick Corea-esque, while some reminded me of Kenny Barron. Berklee has produced another master-class musician for the Indian jazz scene.
Overall, I was immensely pleased with the entire gig: the mix, the musicians, the set-list, everything! Each of them brought something important to the table, without themselves being obvious. That is truly the sign of amazing musicians.