Tag Archives: Leslie Charles

Thermal and a Quarter’s ‘A World Gone Mad’

Share

Introducing our first ever review from the WTS PolyNation Music Exchange Project!
Music reviews BY artists FOR artists.

Rob Richmond from The Vailix (Charlottesville, VA, USA) reviews ‘A World Gone Mad‘ by Thermal and a Quarter (Bangalore, India.)

Thermal And A Quarter (TAAQ) is India’s most prolific rock band, with 8 released albums, multiple international tours / awards – and a never-say-die D-I-Y approach to everything. TAAQ’s 8th studio album “digs deep into this (mis)information age.”

Released March 20, 2020

Guitars/Vocals/Synths: Bruce Lee Mani
Bass/Additional Synths: Leslie Charles
Guitars: Tony Das
Drums: Rajeev Rajagopal
Backing vocals on ‘Stone Circle’: Swikrity Singh

Drums recorded at Stained Class Productions, Bangalore, by Leslie Charles.
Guitars, Vocals, and other instruments recorded at Taaqademy Studios by Bruce Lee Mani.
Mixed by Leslie Charles.
Mastered by Kimberly Rosen at Knack Mastering, USA.

Comment

The Scene by Thermal and a Quarter

Share

Whenever a popular rock band has reached a certain point in a lengthy career, they will typically take one of two paths: they either shift their style to stay relevant and suit the ever evolving tastes of new listeners (and risk accusations of being sell-outs), or they stick to their sound, rehashing the same songs again and again until they’re pumping out vapid, uninspired releases seemingly on auto-pilot. Within a few decades, a band will begin to show signs of gravitating towards one or the other, and for fans of these decaying rock bands, either fate is difficult to watch. While Bangalore based band Thermal and a Quarter don’t quite yet have enough years to fit the “aging rocker” stereotype, they have certainly lasted longer than most rock bands can hope for with almost a twenty-year career under their belts. With their newest record, The Scene, they don’t yet show many signs of falling into this dichotomy. Instead, they remain true to their sound while simultaneously invigorating it with a refreshing look at today’s music culture.

TAAQ have built a name for themselves during their tenure in India’s independent music scene; extensive international touring and a GIMA award for their previous album, 3 Wheels 9 Lives, grace the band’s list of accomplishments. This is all the more impressive considering that since the band’s formation in 1996, they have kept themselves firmly rooted in a distinctly 90’s rock/funk/jazz sound. Honestly, with Thermal’s affinity for funky bass grooves, chicken scratch guitar, and kitsch lyrics, The Scene would fit right in had it been released twenty years ago. That’s not, however, to say it’s bad. Yes, it’s unbearably cheesy at times, but Thermal and a Quarter play and sing with such a warm charisma that they somehow get away with it.

The entire concept of The Scene is something of a mixed bag at first listen. On one hand, it’s brilliant; I applaud Thermal’s spot-on illustrations of many of the movements in today’s indie music scene. On the other hand, they do so with such embarrassingly goofy lyrics that it becomes hard to take anything they say seriously. But maybe that’s the point– most of the songs deal with different issues in our music culture, and they caricature and lampoon those who perpetuate them. Frontman and guitarist Bruce Lee Mani pokes fun at well funded bands that no longer have to take artistic risks in ‘I’m Endorsed Are You’, singing, “You got a free guitar? Oh that’s really cool/ Let me show you my collection, It’ll make you drool”, and eventually concluding “’Cause I, I’m endorsed, I don’t have to play”. From the arrogant-yet-infallible rock stars and those who follow them, from the ultra-trendy hipsters and their underground indie bands, TAAQ takes jabs at everyone. These guys are snarky, and they’re not afraid to show it. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek, but sometimes the band’s cheesiness is too much. Such is ‘Dig the Chicks’, a song about the increased presence of females at rock shows. It contains what is easily the most embarrassing lyric on the album: Mani sings, “Don’t you be no ape when you pitch your woo/ She can tell her Dylan from her Fighters Foo”. Seriously, that one made me cringe.

Though Thermal can be cheesy, don’t be fooled into thinking they’re not saying anything meaningful. On many occasions the band manages to be poignant by recognizing the frustration of trying to get by in the music industry. They wrestle with topics ranging from venues and funding on ‘The Sponsors Backed Out’ to being disregarded on stage by the audience (and suffering the bane of loathsome ‘gig-talkers’) on the title track, where Mani sings, “It’s getting cold here in this spotlight/ While you rattle your cutlery/ Don’t let me play a hole in your conversation/ All I know is that this joke’s on me”. It’s points like these where Thermal’s conception on The Scene really succeeds, and even when their lyrics can be unseemly, the band manages to still be cheeky and endearing due to their commitment to it (as well as Mani’s emotive delivery). What is unique about all this is that for band that’s playing with a sound that had its heyday years ago, Thermal and a Quarter are astonishingly aware of not only today’s movements in the music scene but also their place in it. This is a band that refuses to change who they are, and whether that’s good or bad largely depends on your immediate feelings on the rock/funk/jazz sound.

On a technical level, the band plays tightly together. Leslie Charles’ effervescent bass lines play counterpoint to frontman Bruce Lee Mani’s angular guitar riffs, while the drums (courtesy of Rajeev Rajagopal), keep pushing the songs forward with just the right amount of flourish to keep things engaging. Blending hard-hitting rock riffs, jazz chords, and prog song structures is something that the band specializes in. The result is complex; funk polyrhythms and tonal oddities abound, and yet it’s never overwhelming. TAAQ strike a balance of creating intricate melodies that grant an affable sense of smoothness.  One such example that must be praised are their guitar solos, such as those in ‘Like Me’ and ‘Flok Rock’. While more straightforward, hot-headed rock bands can have a tendency to try and impetuously fling off notes as fast as possible during guitar solos, Thermal’s jazz solos in contrast are even and measured– they might not be as fast or technically impressive, but they actually make musical sense and are appropriate for the song.

Sonically, it’s genuinely impressive that the trio is able to layer so many sounds and parts together at certain points. The Scene obviously has your standard fare of guitars, bass, and drums, but it also features synths, horns, keyboards, and even accordion, all of which were recorded live. The instrumentation has a decent amount of textual variation between songs that keeps the album from growing overly stale. The saw synth under the main rock riff on ‘GodRocker‘ adds a subtle touch of colour to the song, while the accordion passage on the otherwise simple titular track grabs your attention as it waltzes along. However, these points of instrumental experimentation are so sparse that it feels like there is a lot of wasted potential– which is a shame especially because these are some of the best parts on the album. I enjoy the song ‘MEDs‘ as it lampoons today’s laptop-toting DJ’s (“Nothing grooves as sick as a MacBook Pro”), and with its disco beat leading some quick funk strumming, but it’s the final minute that makes it truly memorable. With vocoder voice effects and guitar picking soaked in delay, it’s like they’re channeling Daft Punk, but it’s over before it ever gets going. It may be a great climax, but the rest of the song just seems dull by comparison. The jazzy solo Rhodes piano intro to ‘Going to Abroad’ is likewise a highpoint, but it too is criminally short when it leads into a low-key smooth jazz chords and Mani’s gentle falsetto singing. While these songs certainly aren’t spoiled by these out of the ordinary sounds, it would feel more solid if they were implemented more comprehensibly and in a way that broke the mold for that prog/jazz/funk sound we’ve all heard before.

Another issue with The Scene is its some-what bland dynamics and production. While the band clearly has the technical skill to play with finesse, this effort’s production tends to make it feel… flat. Though the album is rife with overlapping harmonies and instruments, they sometimes sound as if they’ve all been pressed together. The horns throughout the album, for example, sound oddly unexpressive and lack the richness one hopes to find in brass instruments. While the band states they were recorded live, you would be forgiven for thinking that they’re just old second-hand Yamaha keyboard horn sounds that were laid on top of the guitars and drums. On songs such as ‘Like Me’ and ‘Dig the Chicks’, the drums seem too low in the mix, and I wish they had sounded just a bit punchier to pierce through the guitars. ‘Like Me’ in particular has an odd moment in the second half of the song where the band starts playing softly into a crescendo. Though the band tries to pick up the music by adding on parts and voices, it never really goes anywhere– it just goes from quiet to slightly less quiet. To be fair though, the album’s production is completely functional, but it does lack just a bit of depth and dynamism that would have really pushed it ahead. While all these seem like minor gripes (and admittedly, they are), they do hold The Scene back from being an even better record.

Ultimately, how you feel about The Scene is determined by how you felt about Thermal and a Quarter twenty years ago. I can’t help but feel like the sounds on this record are dated, but then again, TAAQ clearly aren’t ones to let the new trends sway their thoughts on what they want to play. The band themselves admit it, singing, “Our story’s been the same Since 1996”. If you like their sound, their latest effort is sure to please you. If not, then go ahead and give it a listen anyway; they have a lot of good things to say, and if the music doesn’t draw you in, then with any luck their smirking commentary of our music scenes will.

Stephen Perez

Stephen Perez is a busy university student that spends an excessive amount of time listening to music and attending music-related activities. He is passionate about art and culture and anxiously awaits the day that he can travel the world. Stephen also enjoys theology, veg food, and reverb.

Comment

Thermal and A Quarter makes a movie!

Share

Bangalore’s favourite rockers Thermal and a Quarter are screening a film for the first time ever, and playing a special gig alongside. The band describes it as “A movie about artists, musicians and other mad people. It’s about us, them and you. It’s about triumph and tragedy and rebirth and resilience. It’s a story, it’s a song, it’s a statement.” The band claims that this gig will feature some “absolutely killer music” that fans have probably never heard.

Titled ‘WFW / DFD,’ the movie is about 40 minutes long, and it apparently took over six months to make. When asked to divulge more details about the movie, the band says “Broadly speaking WFW / DFD is about musicians, artists and performers, with some focus on TAAQ’s journey, thoughts and ideas. With a total running time of about 40 minutes, the film is entirely in Black & White, and features some new music written by us specifically for the film. There is some profanity used – so it’s also (PG) rated!” Understandably so, the band warns us in advance that this movie is not for kids!

A lot seems to have gone into the making of this movie, speaking about it the band says “It feels like our first-ever gig – the first time we played our own songs to an audience! After many years of doing that, premiering a new song is now no problem at all – we know we can pull it off and how. But a film – well, that’s entirely fresh ground for us… something we never thought we would make. We accumulated a lot of footage during our hectic tours last year, so there was some idea of putting all of it together, but we didn’t really anticipate it would take this form, eventually. We tossed around some script ideas for a while and sometime in December last year it started taking real shape. We’ve since been writing, editing, cutting, agonizing… and here we are now, about to release our first film! Lots of butterflies in the belly, for sure!

It’s quite amazing how TAAQ keeps reinventing itself and surprising fans. When asked what’s in store for us this time, the band remains elusive “Come watch. Listen. The film is no ‘action-thriller-romance-drama’ thing, so don’t come expecting edge-of-the-seat stuff, but we believe it’ll grab you.

The setlist sounds quite interesting and it’s not going to be a regular TAAQ gig by the looks of it. In line with some of the ideas discussed in the film, they’re playing a bunch of obscure songs by famous bands, some obscure songs by obscure bands, and even a couple of tracks from defunct Bangalore bands such as Lounge Piranha and Zebediah Plush. The gig will also feature Ramanan Chandramouli on guitar.There are a couple of tunes from the TAAQ catalogue that pre-date their first album and thermalandaquarter.com, which was released in 2000! “It’s unbelievable how much we used to shred back then. Compositions designed to win competitions, perhaps we took part in a lot of those. It’s been real fun putting this set together, and nice to have Ramanan filling in on guitar,” they say excitedly. When asked if there’s more exciting stuff lined up for 2014, they say “Well, there’s definitely a new album in the works. This will be the first one with Leslie on bass, and we’re quite excited about the direction it’s taking.

Tickets for this show are available here and also at the venue. Gates open at 8 pm and seating first come, first served! In TAAQ’s words “You simply cannot miss this one – there’s never been one like it!”

Comment

TAAQ wins the Mervyn Stutter ‘Spirit Of The Fringe’ Award

Share

Bangalore Rockers Thermal and a Quarter win the Mervyn Stutter ‘Spirit of the Fringe’ award, and will play a showcase gig on Sunday, 25th Aug for the grand finale of Mervyn’s show at the Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh.

Mervyn’s Spirit of the Fringe Award is one of the longest-running awards at the Edinburgh Festival, given out every year since 1992 and ‘Pick of the Fringe’ showcases 90 minutes of the top acts from the Fringe festival with the best of theatre, dance, music and more.

Thermal and A Quarter are currently in the middle of their Bangalore Rock tour that goes on all the way till mid-September, when they will finish their marathon run of over 35 concerts!

Comment

The TAAQ Tour!

Share

Thermal and a Quarter talk about their much-awaited Bangalore Rock Tour that will be the largest tour ever by an Indian English rock band. With a 26-gig run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, TAAQ will be performing a completely different set each night of the week, with no repeated songs, drawing from a shortlist of 60 songs. Watch them talk to us in detail about their preparations for the tour and what’s in store!

Comment

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Share

“Remember, these people are not your friends. They will buy you drugs, make you meet girls…but they are not your friends. And remember, it’s all happening.” –Almost Famous

My first attempt to cover a music festival made me feel like William Miller from the movie Almost Famous, though I realized soon that the comparison was too glorified. This wasn’t going to be a window into the dark secrets of the bands but just a platform that would put forward an experience at Escape. I had been to the Escape Festival two years ago and I remember the experience fondly. It was the perfect ambience, well organized and the music was selectively good. I was looking forward to going back to rediscover what it feels to be in the arms of music for three whole days.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Like all events, this one was no exception with regard to the lack of organization. It probably went a step ahead. The venue did greet us with a spectacular scenic vision and a remarkable stage but almost everyone complained of waiting endlessly for a room – even the artists. We were tired, hungry and without a roof for hours and it was only after several outbursts from artists, visitors and media alike that things seemed to be sorted. Almost everyone complained about the lack of organization and vacant stares from the people responsible. But when the music started, everyone just shut up.

Let me throw some light on what the festival was about – there were over 17 bands performing amidst a brilliant sound and stage, aptly named Soul Garden,  there were film screenings, artists displaying their work and a second elaborate stage called the Magic Forest  for electronic music and an impressive list of artists.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

The evening of the 24th started with Delhi Roots (apparently with no one from Delhi in it), whose genre is defined as Latin Reggae. A last minute addition to the list of performers, I particularly enjoyed Sergio, the bassist’s performance. It was the first appearance of Shirish Malhotra on the Saxophone (and then on the flute), in the festival. Vocalist/Guitarist Antone was a huge support to Sergio not just with music but also stage presence.  For me, the band didn’t do much musically, though they did lift up the crowd’s spirit.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Next up was Atul Ahuja with a host of accompanists. The accompanists included Shirish Malhotra (Saxophone), Anirban Ghosh (Bass), Nikhil Vasudevan (Drums) and Stefan Kaye (Keyboards), who apart from a few unintended mistakes made Atul look good. This was the perhaps the only act to do all covers on stage, and popular ones at that. Stefan’s stage antics amused the crowd and the artists alike.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

And then the band that I had been waiting for came and stole the show! Thermal and a Quarter kept the crowd going with their popular songs and did some songs from their new album. Bruce was and is a treat to watch. The relatively quiet duo- Rajeev Rajagopal (Drums) and Leslie Charles (Bass and backing vocals) – helped the band belt out some of the best songs of the evening. Not only is their legacy of over 15 years as a band commendable but the fact that they dish out something new also is.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

The evening ended with Faridkot who started on an impressive note with great sound but ended as a band that sounded monotonous. The band that calls itself “confused pop” had an eclectic mix of blues, soulful harmonies, slick guitar riffs and powerful vocals, but unfortunately after a point it sounded like they were playing the same songs. I did enjoy the harmonic melodies of IP Singh and Sonam though! The first day was hectic and it had nothing to do with the stage acts, just the management, but I was glad it ended well.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

From the looks of it, the second day had a lot to offer at Escape. Against the backdrop of the peaceful lake, where I could find people jumping in and boating, there were movie screenings. No one seemed to have a clue about them and I found a lot of people coming up to me and asking the clichéd question “So, What’s The Scene?”  It was unfortunate that people missed out on the movies and music only out of lack of information passed on to them. I am not a huge fan of electronic music but I was pleasantly surprised by the music served at the Magic Forest because I expected straight up electronic, but it was experimental.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Fuzz Culture stood out but I think that had more to do with my preference than strictly about electronic music. The act consists of  Arsh Sharma (guitarist/vocalist of The  Circus)  and Sri Mahajan (Drummer Parikrama). People were looking forward to Vachan Chinnappa and Waga Waga (Aeroplane Records, UK) but a brutal stop was put by the cops during Vachan’s act. So the acts that did perform were Frame/Frame, Loopbaba. Fuzz Culture, Tarqeeb, Ez Riser and Buffa Pirate (who performed the next day morning to no audience instead of their scheduled Saturday night performance).

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Soul Garden started with what was called the “Square Root Sessions”, which featured upcoming bands. Out of the three bands which performed, Pilgrim Tree HousePrateek Kuhad Collective and Gravy Train, Prateek was my pick. The evening sun was about to set so the acoustic works of Pilgrim Tree House and strums of Prateek’s guitar were a perfect mood setter. Just when I thought the strumming of Prateek’s guitar was becoming monotonous, Vir Singh Brar’s Jambi (a musical instrument that I hadn’t heard before) set the music apart. I didn’t quite enjoy the Hindi compositions for the mere fact that they didn’t offer anything new.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

While I understand the popularity of Gravy Train coming from their act and interactions on stage, I would hope they concentrate on music as much. Akshay Johar’s bass stood out for me in the band. Gravy Train features Tanya Nambiar (Vocals), Akshay Johar (Bass), Karan Malhotra (Guitar) and Bhairav Gupta (Drums).

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

The amateurs set the mood and now it was the turn of the popular bands to carry the shiny beacon which pretty much flickered till the end. Sanchal Malhar of Indigo Children fame and Toshar Singh Nongbet of India’s Got Talent fame kept the crowd going. It was good to see the crowd enjoying Toshar’s opera style!

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Bertie Da Silva and Amyt Datta were the opening act to Skinny Alley’s tribute. They had the fellow musicians up in applause and the crowd enjoying every moment of their performance.  The evening belonged to Skinny Alley who paid a tribute to the great Gyan Singh. More than a performance that has to be subjected to scrutiny as a musician, it was an emotional drive. It was good to see Bruce (from Thermal and a Quarter) joining in the tribute that lasted for quite some time and kept the crowd going. Jayshree’s vocals didn’t seem to fade till the last song and the applause from other musicians was endearing. More than musically enriching the second day for me was an emotional roller coaster (of the good kind).

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

And then came the third day and I was reminded why I had come to Escape and stuck around the chaos. The Magic Forest offered a treat to the interested souls as the artists played well into the wee hours of the morning. The featured acts were Shantam, Vial, Dirty Saffi (who unfortunately did not play), KT, Tadayan, White Wizzard, Arjuna, Al Psummetrix, Technical Hitch and Post Modern Pundit. From the description and the buzz created, I wanted to listen to Post Modern Pundit and Dirty Saffi, but I was hooked on to Blackstratblues who were playing around the same time. Amongst the bands performing in the Square Root Sessions, The Cham Chams didn’t perform. No Thoroughfare and Raunak Maiti started the evening and Run! It’s the kid set the pace.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Unfortunately, I missed No Thoroughfare’s performance as I was drawn to watching a movie (which was brilliant). Raunak Maiti had Prateek Kuhad joining him for a few songs as all his songs were acoustic compositions. I did not enjoy his compositions on the keyboard as they sounded incomplete. It seemed the two artists from Mumbai had quite a support though in the audience. Dhruv Bhola (Backing Vocals/Guitar) and Shantanu Pandit (Vocals) from Run! It’s the kid helped gradually shift the music from acoustic to Folk/Reggae sounds. The Ukulele added the much needed zest. Most of the bands featured in the early part of the two days were acoustic or Reggae.

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Beneath the star studded sky, breezy intoxicated air and the tremendous sound and stage, Blackstratblues began to mesmerize. Warren Mendonsa wielded his weapon and dedicated songs to the sunny evening, the rainy days and Zeppelin (his dog). Jai Row Kavi (Drums) joined Warren and made the shift to blues pretty effortlessly. This was one of the moments when I was reminded why this festival was worth coming to!

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

Tough on Tobacco was again high on reggae and quite predictably, Sidd kept the crowd going. A band that starts to describe itself “as a 6-piece progressive disco dance metal bhojpuri act from Outer Mongolia” is indeed a humor tinged pop-reggae band. I was particularly intrigued by the photo of the band on the schedule brochure and their music seemed to explain it! The band features Sidd Coutto (vocals/guitar), Gaurav Gupta (guitar/vocals), Pozy Dhar (guitar), Neil Gomes (violin/sax/flute/vocals) , Johan Pais (bass) and Jai Row Kavi (drums/vocals).

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

The evening ended with Ska Vengers, another act that was sought after in the fest. The eight-piece band made the crowd stand up and dance to their tunes. Vir Singh Brar got on the stage to join them, this time acknowledging the band by dancing. It was the first time I was listening to them and they came across as a modern twist (the twist being interspersing various genres of music) to Jamaican music. Shirish played with the first band in the 3-day festival and then played with the last as well. There isn’t any musical significance to this but it sure is a fun fact! The lineup includes Samara C. (vocals), Delhi Sultanate (vocals), Stefan Kaye (organ/percussion), Raghav Dang (guitar), Tony Guinard (bass), Nikhil Vasudevan (drums), Rie Ona (alto saxophone) and Shirish Malhotra (tenor saxophone). The electronica stage was thumping simultaneously, which made me feel torn between the two stages. However people who were clear about their agenda must have enjoyed to the fullest!

An Escape to Naukuchiatal – The Escape Festival 2013

My first impression of Escape (from two years ago) was that everyone finds his space – a space that is personal and oblivious to fun as defined by others. This time I found an invasion of my space mostly by the mismanagement and lack of information. Escape for me was never about getting high on anything other than music and the ambience, and I found myself meeting people who thought otherwise. But the effort of bringing so many creative minds under one roof is indeed commendable; if only the fest had been managed well, it would have left a lasting impression on my mind.

Comment

Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore

Share

Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore Thermal and a Quarter at Bak Bak Bar, Bangalore

Aditya Vishwanathan

Aditya Vishwanathan is a creative photographer from Bangalore. After being actively involved with multiple bands in the music circuit, he now documents gigs in and around town. In his free time, he loves to play with kids while listening to an old Michael Jackson album.

Comment

Thermal and a Quarter on What’s The Scene?

Share

Bruce Lee Mani and Rajiv Rajagopal from Thermal and a Quarter wish WTS a happy third anniversary and talk about what they like best about us!

Comment

Leslie Charles Trio at The Rooftop Grill Bar, Bangalore

Share

Braving the onslaught that is Bangalore traffic on a Friday evening and the dustbowl that is Kasavanahalli, I arrived at the lovely stone building that housed the Rooftop Grill Bar. Thinking that I had minutes before the event started (the time mentioned on the poster was 8:00 p.m.), I rushed in to see that, much to my relief, the time had been changed to 8:30 p.m. Although the location was not very well known and this was the first time that the Leslie Charles Trio was playing together, I was itching to hear them live. The venue had a great view, two very friendly owners and the perfect atmosphere for a great evening of smooth jazz and bebop.  At first, the venue seemed to be sparsely populated but slowly people started pouring in, forming an intimate and cozy atmosphere.

Leslie Charles Trio at The Rooftop Grill Bar, Bangalore

The buzz and anxiety intensified as the clock struck nine and the soundcheck still hadn’t ended. I must mention here that this may turn out to be more of a log of the evening and not a review as one must be at the same caliber as these three vastly talented musicians to even attempt a review. Although this was their first gig together, the members of the band are individually, stars in the burgeoning jazz scene of Bangalore. On the bass guitar was Leslie Charles, teacher at the The Nathaniel School of Music and ex-bassist for Allegro Fudge. Ramanan Chandramouli, currently an instructor at the TAAQademy and member of Mad Orange Fireworks and Blind Image, was on lead guitars. To complete this trifecta, Deepak Raghu took his place as the drummer who is famously associated with Bevar Sea and many other acts. There was no doubt that the evening was going to be magical.

Leslie Charles Trio at The Rooftop Grill Bar, Bangalore

After imbibing some liquid courage and having undergone a quick wardrobe change, (for a very dapper Ramanan!) the band opened the set with Billy Cobham’s ‘Stratus’. They set the right groovy mood with the thumping bass of this slower, more minimalistic version. Many in the crowd were familiar to the band members and, though not raucous, indulged in gentle heckling and ribbing especially of Ramanan who was asked to “play better” after they finished their second song ‘Oasis’. Next they tackled the great Thelonious Monk’s jazz standard ‘Blue Monk’. Again, they went for a more restrained interpretation without straying from the original groove and chutzpah. Each song was done justice with the brilliant acoustics of the venue without anyone having to cup their ears to hear well or having their eardrums blown out.

Leslie Charles Trio at The Rooftop Grill Bar, Bangalore

The band moved on to the legendary Miles Davis track ‘Footprints’ so effortlessly showing us exactly why we should watch out for them. Shrugging off the continued comments from the crowd about their attire, especially a certain sporting hat, the boys next played ‘Led Boots’. The slow melodic overture dominated by the lead guitar, bass dominated interlude and the solo drum section got the crowd going with many of them crowding around the stage and dancing to music. Just when we anticipated that the song would end in a glorious frenzy of the drums the guitars kicked in continuing this wonderful rendition of the song.

After a slight adjustment to the gear, the band went on to another Miles Davis classic ‘All Blues’. The funky intro urged many out of their seats and many people stood near the band appreciatively bobbing their heads and smiling at intricate rhythms flying off the guitars effortlessly.

Leslie Charles Trio at The Rooftop Grill Bar, Bangalore

The second half of the gig commenced with ‘Blackout’ followed by the seminal jazz piece ‘Autumn Leaves’. It is a testament to their talent that they could provide such an unforgettable version on this piece with just three instruments. To emphasize that the evening was mainly a Miles Davis tribute, the trio followed with ‘So What’ and ‘Blue in Green’. The slow beat, alternating tempo, hypnotizing riff and slow fade out on the former song resulted in one audience member lustily yelling out “Oh Yeah!”

Keyboard maestro Bharath Kumar joined them next on the track ‘Recorda- me’ by Joe Henderson who let loose with some frenzied and fantastic playing. The now energized crowd applauding madly at the jubilant band was rewarded handsomely with the next track ‘Chicken’ made famous by Jaco Pastorius. This upbeat and cheerful number lent an appropriately vibrant flavor to the now smoke filled and hazy bar. With ‘My Favourite Things’, they moved on to a sadder, mellower strain as they got ready to bid adieu to the crowd. Bharath took a break from this track and Ramanan’s slow coaxing of the guitar was the highlight of this song. Little did anyone realize that it was close to midnight! With the genial banter, lively interaction with the band members and smooth-as-whiskey jazz; no one wanted the evening to end.

Leslie Charles Trio at The Rooftop Grill Bar, Bangalore

Due to some persistent and effective persuasion from a fellow listener, the band decided to indulge us with a live jam session with Bharath Kumar returning on keyboards. A great guitar and keyboard duet ensued and the evening ended on a perfect note!

Leslie was stoicism personified throughout the gig while leaving us all awestruck at his talent. Deepak regaled up all with some great drum licks and coupled with their confidence and fantastic rapport with the crowd gifted us with a near perfect gig. Close to midnight, the fantastic gig ended only to be marred by someone asking the guitarist to play a Hindi song for them. Thankfully, and with admirable firmness, he refused. Although the gig started late and lasted well past closing time, I was just happy having the chance to be at the first gig by the Leslie Charles Trio. They invoked the demi-gods of jazz- such as Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorius, John Coltrane and the wonderful chemistry shared by the members left an indelible impression of a talented band that has so much to offer in the future.

Anusmita Datta

Anusmita Datta is an ardent day-dreamer, music lover, die-hard foodie and occasional writer. Her obsession with pandas is sometimes disturbing and she can be often found lusting after momos!

Comment