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.