Last night Debbie and I went to see Amit Heri at Hypnos. We’d heard him perform at Grasshopper last weekend and were impressed enough to want to hear more. He’s a Berklee College of Music trained jazz guitarist, and his set last night showed the depth and breadth of his talent.
As Hypnos is a bar/club setting the crowd was pretty high-energy, so they started with a heavily rock influenced fusion piece. It reminded me a bit of Jeff Beck’s early solo work. He moved fluidly into other genres including Spanish flamenco/gypsy vaguely reminiscent of Paco De Lucia, Brazilian, classical Spanish, traditional jazz, and blues.
He brought up guest singers for two numbers, which was very popular with the crowd. They peformed well (though I found it incogruous to hear “Ain’t no Sunshine” performed by a woman, the alternation with vocals by the drummer worked very nicely. That drummer can sing!) While the vocalists were nice the real heart of the performance was the obvious pleasure they took in peforming with each other, and the musicality of their performances. The playful collegiality combined with serious musicianship made for a lovely evening.
I am a little unhappy with the venue. I know that jazz is traditionally played in dark smoky clubs, this certainly was both very dark and very smoky! However the sight lines and acoustics were not ideal. The sounds was both loud and bright, with lots of flat hard surfaces to bounce off. My other gripe is that music promotion seems almost non-existent in Bangalore. I scan the papers looking for events, I get on mailing lists for notification of events, and STILL the only way I heard about this was by word of mouth from someone I met last weekend. If I can’t hear about a jazz guitar event at a club that’s practically on my doorstep, how can anyone expect to find out about good music in more obscure venues?
One quick comment about Amit’s performance at Grasshopper. That was his first live solo outing and it had a few rough edges. The venue was more like a small recital hall, and the audience was very attentive and very quiet – unlike a typical club performance. His playing was good, but maybe because of nervousness, the venue, or the audience, it didn’t feel like he really connected with the audience. Solo jazz guitar is a tough gig, especially with an audience hanging on every note. Some of the things that work well in a club setting don’t work so well as a soloist. The sound at Grasshopper was processed more than I would have liked, sometimes with a heavy hand (foot?) on the reverb, other times with gratuitious effects. Solo jazz guitar is about one person’s ability on their instrument. It’s more intimate, subtle, and requires a different kind of listening. The performance was obviously good enough to leave me wanting to hear more, but I think it could have been even better.
That said, the set at Hypnos worked. The band was together, the music was hot, and the crowd loved it. Amit was obviously in his metier, and a fine metier it is. I want more.