You have to feel sorry for Martin Luther King III. First, his name is Martin Luther King. Second, of all the things he could grow up to be, he decided to become a human rights advocate. Third, when he’s in Mumbai and talking about how his father Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by Gandhi, George Duke waddles on to stage and starts playing soothing elevator music as background score. At least I think that’s what Mr. King was saying because just when I was able to stop myself from saying “Chaar maala, please”* to the guy sitting next to me, Chaka Khan decided to edge her way in from stage right. All 100 kgs of Chaka Khan, in a black and gold corset, a violently red wig, fishnetted pants and crystal bindis at the corner of her eyes. So began an evening of jazz and blues with Chaka Khan, Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, George Duke, Zakir Hussain and the students of the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz.
It was a collection of crazies at Tata Theatre on February 18th. Herbie Hancock forgot what he was supposed to play (“We call this track ‘Flying By The Seat of Our Pants” because that’s pretty much how we play it,” he said). Chaka Khan insisted on calling one of the students from the Thelonious Monk Institute Jonisha even though that wasn’t her name (CK: “I just feel like calling you Jonisha. One thing’s for sure, your dad’s name is John.” Girl: “Ummm… nope.”). She also freaked out a dimunitive Asian trumpeter by creeping towards him while belting out a version of “Night in Tunisia” which became “Night in Mumbaaeee”. He looked like he wanted to yelp out to Mummy. Dee Dee Bridgewater scatted beautifully while she prowled around the as though she was a dancer pretending to be an antelope in the musical “The Lion King“. A young Russian pianist locked lips on a small keyboard with a flute-like extension, which led my companion to lean over and say, “This can only be described as a man fellating a keyboard”. In a couple of songs, Zakir Hussain was like Caspar the friendly ghost: he crept on to stage unexpectedly, jammed with cheery vigour and then whooshed out of sight. In short, it was wonderful. Even more so if you flitted from this concert to see Goldspot perform at Hard Rock Café.
Chaka Khan still has enough lung power to make her voice soar without wavering from the notes while she holds the microphone an arm’s length away. Dee Dee Bridgewater’s voice can trek octaves as nimbly as Super Mario racing through the Mushroom Kingdom. Siddharth Khosla, on the other hand, can’t hold on to his band mates and the songs from his new album sound pretty unmemorable. Not that Siddharth Khosla and his band of preppy white boys were bad. It’s just that Goldspot looks like it might end up being another Cornershop. This is not good news if you’re Siddharth Khosla, who by the way is supposedly twice divorced and yet the refrain of one of his new songs is “Will You Marry Me?” Men, I tell you. “Time Bomb” and “Friday” are still their best tracks and while the songs from the new album sound pleasant enough, they sound vaguely like one very long song that split itself, like a procreating amoeba. Also, no matter how much Khosla flung his arms on the tiny stage, the band had little of the energy that the loony geriatrics of jazz and blues did.
Goldspot came to India without drummer Ramy Antoun and bassist Sergio Andrade. Antoun and Khosla have had a lover’s spat while recording the new album and the drummer refused to come for this India tour. Consequently, the posters advertising the concert had a picture of the band but with everyone other than Khosla shrouded in sooty shadows. I’m not sure whether that’s going to help Antoun and Khosla kiss and make up. He and Andrade were replaced by two boys of whom one looked like he is the love child of Jarvis Cocker and Vampire Weekend (just without the musical zing of either). On the plus side, I think the drummer fell in love with one of the nubile things at the concert, who in turn was giddy with delight that a bona fide rock musician (and white to boot!) was, like, totally interested in her. Cool!
* “Fourth floor, please.”