On an especially cloud-covered Sunday evening, we waited for Traffic Jam to start their show. The venue was Tao Terraces at 1MG Mall in Bangalore an open space sheathed by nothing but the sky, illuminated mostly by the moon.
As the band took the stage, they were greeted with lazy, but not unwelcome smiles. They started off with a light-hearted number titled All That Jazz. Some of you may remember it from the musical Chicago. Traffic Jams adaptation was brilliantly refitted, with a no-frills vibe about it. The original flavor of the song wasnt diluted thanks to the accompanying instruments, and one could hardly feel the lack of the trumpet, thanks to Marcus Daniels dexterous fingers, rasping away at the piano keys. Some were tapping their feet, some were bobbing their heads, and soon as the first song was over, they had everyones attention. There was applause, promptly followed by the next song What You Got an original composition. Jessica Moorwood laughingly added that she probably shouldnt have mentioned that. I, for one, was glad she did!
One of my favourite things about the gig was the neatness of it all. There was no 30-minute soundcheck while the audience waited, there was no Oscars-inspired speech between songs, and the conduct of the band engaged everyone without egregiousness. Their demeanour suited the ambience and it was almost like the music was a natural extension of the pale starlight and the wind.
Soon enough, Jessica announced that the song they were about to play had danceable tunes, if any couples were interested in that sort of thing. A Day in the Life of a Fool(aka Black Orpheus aka Mahna de Carnaval) was playing. Traffic Jams take on the song wasnt too mellow and it lasted a while longer than the original. The tempo was perfect thanks to Abhilash EKs powerful subtlety with the drums. Breaks between the vocals and instrumental sections were placed at adequate lengths. The guitar solo rendered by Abhishek Prakash was followed by Marcuss piano, in immediate succession. Sadly, nobody was dancing to this piece of classical legend and they would have had a long dance too!
This was remedied by their next song another original titled Lost Together. Jessica dedicated it to her husband saying that it was written by him. It was a dreamy track with a tune and words that remind you of two lovers drifting into a world they made, unbeknownst to anyone else. Sure enough, there were couples dancing to this one. Its the sort of song youd associate with the phrase Rainbows and Unicorns, if you, like me, spend far too much time on the Internet for lack of other things to do!
The highlight of my evening was when I discovered to my pleasant surprise that their set list included Duke Ellington and Bob Russells Dont Get Around Much Anymore.Traffic Jams rendition was upbeat, and if you wouldnt pay attention to the lyrics, youd hardly feel the shreds of sadness mixed with indifference. It signified age, but not in years. It signified youth, but not in words. An honest, straightforward cover that did no disservice to the original.
Keeping up with the deceptive cheerfulness, they played their next song Aint No Sunshine When Shes Gone. I dont know how Traffic Jam could pull off Duke Ellington and Bill Withers while making it seem effortless, but they did it. Weve all heard several versions of this song and any jazz enthusiast would not resist or tire of new forms of its expression. Jessicas vocals on this one would warrant even Eva Cassidys attention. Jefferson nuanced the performance in a wonderful way with his bass never dipping into the background. The soul of it all, however,was Abhisheks solo, which was vivid and heartfelt. Nobody wanted the song to end, but end it did. Thankfully, it was only half their set time that was over.
After a well-deserved break, they returned with the instrumental Take 5. Thats my ringtone! said the excited voice of my friend and colleague Rohan as he could barely stop himself from shaking a leg, much like most people at the venue.
The rest of their set included Autumn Leaves, Son Of A Preacher Man, All Of Me, and other songs. My [other] friend and colleague Dev, remarked sometime during one of their songs that you cant play the blues or jazz unless you really loved music. I nodded in agreement. It was quite telling of Traffic Jam then, that they packed a group of songs with their own flavour and kept adding on to it, without taking anything away.