They say that jazz is an acquired taste. If that is so, then Karachi has quite an appetite for it. On a brisk Saturday evening the jazz/fusion group, the Kolachi Quartet, performed a gig at the PACC.
Pakistan?s prominent percussionist Gumby handled the drums, classical guitarist Abbas Premjee helmed the guitar, Khalid Khan of Aaroh provided the bass lines and finally rounding things off, Emu (Fuzon) chimed in with his synthesiser and keyboards.
The who?s who of the entertainment industry loitered around the entrance of the inner theatre where the concert was set to take place as TV stars, musicians, photographers and models mingled with the band members.
The Kolachi Quartet had performed before, but that was a special performance away from the prying eyes of the public. This time round they opened their doors to them, although there weren?t enough members of the general public around. As the lights dimmed, the musicians took to the stage looking relaxed and grinning at each other. Abbas greeted the audience and announced the opening track, Oops, and like a well-oiled machine each musician fell into place.
At first nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But when put in their individual perspective, each musician brought his own flair, passion and sound, and when they came together their music gelled perfectly. Oops was jumpy and upbeat, filled with a jazzy and fusion sound while giving a sneak peak into what the show was all about. That Sinking Feeling followed and with it the band moved to a slower tune.
Although jazz is ambient music, the band made sure they were the centre of attention. ?We haven?t given this one a name yet, but we call it the Kirwani Jam,? said Premjee as an untitled piece beginning with an erratic but stable beat followed. It wasn?t long before the audience got into the grove.
The band then welcomed Zara on stage. The singer was previously heard on the Khuda Key Liye soundtrack and although she did justice to it, her live act was less impressive. Suniye Ji was a soft ballad with her vocals sinking into the ambience created by the band. At times she seemed a bit lost, but through most of it she was on track. After another track with her, the band took a break as Abbas Premjee took the stage to perform a few solo compositions. From crescendos to soft whispers, he showed off his training in the guitar ? and the audience loved it.
The band regrouped and was joined by Irfan from Multan who sings in his native tongue. Although he stumbled a bit at first, he found his own temperament and settled in with the band. After the concert, the band spoke about the premise of the concert with much glee. It was clear that not only did they enjoy playing as a group, they did so as individual musicians as well.
?This was probably more for us as musicians than as a band performing for an audience,? said Gumby. Emu agreed, ?It?s just something that had to be done. As a musician, I?ve always been into jazz but never had the opportunity to play it live or as a part of a band.? Khalid added, ?This was our first public concert and it was amazing.?
When asked if they would ever release an album, Gumby said, ?Every piece that was played in the concert, except for one, was an improvisation. We?ve practiced a basic structure but apart from that it?s not something that can be captured on a disc, it has to be done live in front of an audience.?
?This is total improvisation, the essence of jazz music,? Emu reiterated. Guitarist Premjee echoed the same sentiments, ?Jazz music is spontaneous, you can?t have that on a disc. It?s meant to be played live hence we?d like to do more shows.? Bassist Khalid said, ?We can probably look into a record but at the moment we?re planning on doing more shows.?
The band faced one criticism. Jazz music as a genre is extremely niche in Pakistan at the moment. There are very few people who play it, and even fewer who appreciate it. ?That?s right,? said Gumby, ?it is niche but at the same time we?re doing it and it?s not like nobody came to the show.?
Whereas the majority of the band agreed upon its niche genre, Abbas Premjee had a different view, ?I don?t think its niche at all and if it is, it?s less than ghazals and everything else that we have.? Premjee insisted that more shows would lead to jazz becoming a broader genre than it is.
Individually, the Kolachi Quartet members have a busy schedule up ahead. Premjee spoke about his solo album Elements and that it would be released shortly. Khalid Khan spoke about Aaroh, ?We?re working on some new songs that will lead into a new album.? Emu and his band continue to broaden their audiences, ?We?re (Fuzon) going to India again soon, so that should be exciting.? Finally, Gumby has his hands full working on Abbas Premjee?s album, providing drums for other people (Kaavish?s upcoming record) and ultimately more Kolachi Quartet shows.