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News |  18 Jul 2016 19:48 |  By RnMTeam

And yet another jazz masterpiece goes unheard

MUMBAI: "The thing about jazz, unlike other genres, is its consistent nature," declared Gino Banks, on the eve of LeEco's event at antiSocial Mumbai, two nights after the drummer performed at the same venue with his father and two young musicians under the concept 'Guitar Synergy'.

The statement, echoed by Louiz Banks and several other established jazz personalities, may hold true musically. Its consistent nature, however, does not extend to the revenue and popularity it generates. Not at least in the Indian music ecosystem.

Of late, the genre has become a burden for music labels and venues. Gino’s father, the legendary jazz maestro – Louiz Banks, released his newest effort in the form of a nine-track album titled ‘Prism’ on his website. “What can be done?” wondered the veteran composer when asked about the lack of commercial value of his new album since its release. “In a market driven by Bollywood, you cannot expect sales of such a niche genre.” While music services have been largely welcoming of niche genres and underground artists’ work in recent months, Banks does not believe these would help his album sales much.

The album released almost a month ago, and so far, the website link to ‘Prism’ (http://www.louizbanks.com/prism) (the only source for the album) showed that the album had been heard just over 470 times. That’s the number of views Benny Dayal would receive in five minutes into the release of his single. But the figure isn’t shocking, to say the least.

To describe the album, Banks explained "it’s as progressive as it comes." Three tracks into the soundtrack and you exactly understand why. The album opens with ‘Elemental’, and a one-and-a-half minute intro to Banks’ sheer artistry in the form of a keyboard solo. The solos arrive at several places throughout the album, and after a certain count, one would prefer to not compare the solos and rather let the 75-year-old virtuoso impress with his musical prowess. With support from six other established and emerging musicians, Banks surely has created one of his most elaborate albums, but failed to create the necessary and deserving hype. The album found space on the participating musicians’ social media, and unlike a Punjabi rapper with a single involving a TV actor or an electronica project backed by OML, ‘Prism’ received no coverage from leading personalities, music organisations and/or press. Anyone would have provided a dozen of reasons for the same, but Louiz Banks focused on the musical aspects – “No one is interested in progressive jazz genre.”

The album features another established jazz composer, the saxophonist Carl Clements, and Banks ensured early good impression was ensured with the utilisation of the Tenor and Soprano Saxophonist into four of its first five tracks – ‘Elementary’, ‘Intermission’, ‘Alpha Omega’ and ‘Prism’. The inclusion of three international artists delayed the construction of the album as Banks had to wait for Brooks (Tenor Saxophonist for eighth track ‘Crash Boom Bang’) and Clements to arrive in India for recording their respective contributions to the album. “Elie (the acoustic bassist for the first four tracks) recorded his parts in Dubai and sent it to me.” Upon asked on the dependency on the two saxophonists, Banks commented, “Saxophonists of that caliber do not exist in India. The creative risks and the tempo demanded Carl Clements and George Brooks.”

Gino Banks appears throughout the album, except for the last three tracks. “Gino advised Andrew Kanga and Jai Row Kavi for three tracks on the album. Gino knows Jai and Andrew really well, and he advised me to utilise their jazz skills that would eventually act as an encouragement,” said the senior Banks, representing the sixth generation in his family that has devoted itself to music. The encouragement extended to Jai Row Kavi’s social media post where the drummer for ‘Crash Boom Bang’ called the genre a “dwindling art form” and Banks replied, “THERE IS A RESURGENCE...and guys it's in your hands to take this great art form forward into the future.......don't get hijacked by commercial and entertaining music for the masses.”

Jazz arrived in its full-fledged avatar before people were even defined or influenced with the knowledge of commercial Bollywood music. However, the latter took over to dominance through its sheer size, association with popular faces and the mass appeal that jazz could never replicate.

An element of humour at the start and end of the album, through the popular quotes from ‘Sherlock Holmes’. An elaborate and exclusive line-up handpicked for respective duties. The complex drumming, melodic-at-its-best keyboard solos/intros and outros. The effective usage of the presence of one of the finest saxophonists, and his favourite sound engineer Neil Jerry D’souza, who handled the mixing and mastering responsibilities. All these aspects helped Banks put the claim that jazz cannot be reinvented with time to bed (once again), adding that there possibly could be a sequel to ‘Prism’. “Apart from that, I am also hoping to do a live recording for the album. I may or may not be able to find all the contributors at the same place and same time, but I would definitely try for it.”

Jazz never had sweet success on the commercial front, but the genre influenced and inspired amateurs and professionals alike. The list of impressive jazz efforts that failed to create enough attention for an album launch, a platform on streaming service and/or a tabloid to write about continues to grow, and the ‘godfather of Indian jazz’ becomes the latest victim to it. However, Banks personally would have a little to worry about. Jazz music reverbs in the Banks household, and with the eighth generation following in the footsteps, the ambassador of jazz continues to remain optimistic about the future of the genre. ‘Prism’ isn’t a unique case. In fact, Banks can use solace with the year of 2008 when the lack of coverage in India to his fourth studio album ‘Miles in India’ was overshadowed by the Grammy nomination it received.

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