Friday, June 29, 2007

An evening full of jazz

In ‘Sex and the City’, one of the characters (I think it was Miranda) once mentions the thought of leaving Manhattan and compares it to the feeling of falling off the ends of the earth. I’ve lived here for a few months and till today never really ventured beyond Manhattan myself, except twice and those were to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and back, and take the ferry across to Staten Island and return without ever really stepping off it. When you think of it, New York is so much more than Manhattan. The boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island are very much a part of New York City as well. Manhattan is like the spoilt child compared to its ugly-duckling siblings, with all the tourist attractions - Broadway, the Empire State Building and so on and so forth.

The JVC Jazz Festival has been going on in the city over the last couple of weeks, and this evening it presented free to the members of the public the Ravi Coltrane Quartet, in the open air and verdure of Prospect Park, which is pretty much in a part of Brooklyn I’d never stepped into. I was dilly-dallying over whether I ought to drag myself out of the house in the cloudy weather to go all the way to ohmyGodBrooklynwhereI’veneverreallybeen, but I’m glad better sense prevailed. So I made what I thought would be a long journey but in reality was hardly much of a trip on the Subway, to Prospect Park.

Brooklyn’s lovely, it really is, at least that part of it that I saw today. Prospect Park is like the Central Park of Manhattan, and such a nice family-friendly, runner-friendly, nature-friendly (by default-it’s a park, DUH!!) place, but what I loved best about the area is that most buildings I saw there were brownstones. Brownstones are so much more appealing to the eye than the looming skyscrapers one is more accustomed to seeing in New York – OK, Manhattan. They are more welcoming structures, and though I knew absolutely no one there, welcomed is what I felt.

Anyway, Ravi Coltrane, son of the great jazz musician-couple John and Alice Coltrane, played some jazz music that was totally worth the visit. Ravi, named after India’s very own sitar guru Ravi Shankar, is a jazz saxophonist who has come into his own. One of the best compositions the group played was by Alice Coltrane herself, and the guy sitting next to me very wisely said he ought to play more of his mother’s music. Ravi acknowledged that growing up in a household where he came home after school everyday to listen to jazz melodies - his mother performing at the piano - was something very special, though he didn’t know it then. Also appreciable (at least to me) is Ravi’s team spirit. There were multiple solos woven into the group performance, more by the other members of the quartet than by Ravi himself, and that made the performance all the more interesting, because let’s face it – sometimes listening to one instrument for too long can bore a large audience.

Jazz is a genre of music I absolutely love listening to. I can listen to jazz for hours and not get bored. There’s something magically uplifting about the way the various instruments – saxophone, bass, drums, piano, even the native African drums incorporated by the Craig Harris Ensemble, the act that preceded the Ravi Coltrane Quartet – come together. Of course, improvisation is inherent in jazz, and that’s another reason it is really sweet music to my ears (pun intended!). The spontaneity is what makes you want to listen to more of the music, to see whether it ends in a crescendo or tapers off, or what other little tangos the instruments will come into in pairs or threes.

Brooklyn treated me well this evening. Maybe I’ll end my love affair with Manhattan for a while and start exploring the rest of this fascinating metropolis!

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