KARACHI, Sept 16: An evening of jazz is what one usually gets to enjoy. A jazz morning is an unusual occurrence. But it happened on Friday when the Ari Roland Jazz Quartet from the US visited the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) to perform and conduct a brief workshop for the academy's students. The morning turned out to be worth skipping one's breakfast for.
The quarter comprises Ari Roland (double bass), Chris Byars (tenor saxophone), Zaid Nasser (alto saxophone) and Keith Balla (drums) and is in Pakistan for a five-day workshop. They kicked off their Napa visit with a number demonstrating the basics of the jazz genre. During the performance Keith Balla played on just one head of the drum because his drum set hadn't arrived. It was a nice beginning to the (mini) gig as all the four musicians showed their skills during their solo acts in the composition.
Once the band was done with the song, Ari Roland explained how the quarter played jazz. He said while playing, the four musicians stuck to the same structure (chords etc) however, each one improvised a new melody. Replying to a question, Ari Roland said “if we don't remember the melody, we can't remember the harmony”. Since it was Zaid Nasser's birthday, the quarter then presented the traditional happy birthday tune in jazz dedicating it to their saxophonist. They literally and figuratively jazzed up the number which was pleasing to the ear.
The band members told students and journalists that the last time they were in Pakistan they learned a word 'jugulbandi'. According to them, the word is now commonly used in New York's music circles.
Following up on the jugulbandi theme, the quarter played the famous Pakistani national song 'Dil Dil Pakistan' (by Vital Signs) imparting it a completely jazzy feel. It was a unique experience listening to the song as Zaid Nasser and Chris Byars played the melody on their saxophones and Ari Roland created the correct rhythmic pattern on his double bass.
Then Ari Roland talked about the quartet's drummer, Keith Balla, saying he was the youngest of the lot therefore had more energy. This was amply proved when the next song was performed. Keith Balla, who now had received his complete drum set, played with great vigour, control and passion earning a hearty applause from the audience.
Napa student Saima requested to play the guitar with the quarter, which the band gleefully accepted.
They played in B-flat key and despite the student's nervy performance she was appreciated by her senior colleagues. This encouraged another Napa pupil, singer Nadir Abbas, to join the four American musicians for an improvisation of raag charukeshi.
Responding to one question about eminent Hollywood director and actor Woody Allen's ability as a jazz player, Chris Byars said it was neither good nor bad. He also narrated a couple of amusing incidents related to Bill Clinton's go at the genre.