The Bill Evans show was technical wizardry at work

The quartet was promising but needs a few more shows to get its act together

Bill Evans & Ranjit Barot with Etienne Mbappe and Marc Guillermont, Blue Frog, Mumbai, June 7th:

(l-r) Marc Guillermont, Bill Evans, Etienne Mbappe at Blue Frog, Mumbai Photo:Tejeshwar Balachander

It looked every bit a jazz band on stage. The saxophones, the big bass with its six strings, the electric guitar and of course, Ranjit Barot on drums. Did it sound like a jazz band?

For a group that had never played together till the previous night at the Delhi Blue Frog, they sounded quite cohesive.  Barot  explained to the audience that they had exchanged each others’ music by email and would gel once they were on stage together. That’s a giant step forward for collaborations, but how do you email soul? The bit about feeding off each others’ energy must surely be lost. They made the most of it because of their technical mastery.

Barot was on his drums looking every bit as if astride his Harley Davidson. He was driving the rhythm with muscle power but with purpose. International musical exposure has undoubtedly matured Barot’s playing.

The set opened with great promise. It had a gospel feel to it, a persuasive rhythm and an inspired solo on the tenor sax by Bill Evans. The music, however, took off in different directions thereafter. Compositions from each of the quartet, with a different feel each time, made the musical experience a bit confusing.

Etienne Mbappe’s composition “PYMFAO”, an acronym of largely unprintable words, expended oodles of energy. Mbappe is essentially a melodic bass player and did justice to the sound all evening. Bill Evans, playing both tenor and soprano sax, was clearly enjoying himself. He even commented that he didn’t get paid for playing, but just for travelling! His playing on the tenor was a notch above his forays on the soprano, at least in the format of this quartet. French guitarist, Marc Guillermont played well on his composition, “R & D”, but otherwise failed to display much melodic feel in his solos. He is young and will grow in time.

One came away with the feeling that this quartet, if they played together regularly, has good musical potential. Did they sound like a jazz band? I am still not sure about that.

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