“I love the sophistication of jazz,” says Louiz Banks of the genre

Considered the godfather of Indian jazz, Banks was happy that the 11th edition, which was held yesterday, was in offline format, after a two-year break.

You grew up with many musical influences. What prompted you to get into jazz?

Jazz had everything I aspired to in music. Sophistication, exciting harmonic progressions, great rhythmic values ​​and the freedom to express yourself freely, where you could bend the rules and not sound the same twice. I loved these concepts. Jazz is my passion.

In 2019, you collaborated with Sufi and ghazal singer Pooja Gaitonde. How did this happen and how did you prepare to fuse Sufi music and jazz?

It was an interesting collaboration. In Sufism, you talk to God. It’s very deep emotionally and very melodic too, when I heard the music I felt that jazz could be fused with it. I wanted to experience the emotional side of jazz, the bluesy side of jazz. Pooja was ready to try the fusion of Sufi with Jazz and we even called Sufi Jazz. I loved it and wanted to experiment with different harmonic progressions and melodic expressions. I’m ready to create more Sufi Jazz with Pooja.

You were recently approached by Artium to be part of their faculty and help young people in music education. Can you tell us something about it and some details about the course content?

I always have at heart to accompany young musicians to make them more efficient in interpretation, to grow constantly. In India I found that there isn’t much focus on Western music education per se, it’s mostly that young people pick up an instrument, learn to play with private lessons at home and start to play. Some of them excel astonishingly but most remain average musicians all their life. This is where a good musical education can help in becoming a better musician and eventually a world-class musician.

You religiously organize International Jazz Day every year on April 30. Do you think this helps foster the love of jazz in India?

Every little activity, every project you do to project jazz helps keep the spirit of jazz alive. It is also a great incentive and motivation for musicians who play jazz or are trying to get into jazz.

We have lost many great names in jazz. Who do you miss, as a friend and as a musician?

In India, I miss some great jazz musicians who used to play with me like guitarist Carlton Kitto, singer Pam Crain, guitarist Chad Bronkhurst, bassist Peter Saldhana. I was a great admirer of the great trumpeter Chic Chocolate, trumpeter Chris Perry, among others.

You changed your name from Louis to Louiz, any reason for that?

I had gone with my wife Lorraine to a numerologist for advice and clarification on a name change when I suddenly had the idea to ask him if he was going to take a look at my name – Louis. He thought and looked at his notes and suggested that if I changed the ‘s’ in my name to ‘z’, it would bring me great luck and prosperity. I loved the alphabet ‘z’, and since that day I started spelling my name with a ‘z’ it worked like magic.

What do you do with your free time?

I write a lot of new compositions, plus I love to paint, it’s my second passion. I like to watch movies too. I also spend time with my family, I have fun with my grandson Jadyn.

What kind of paintings?

I usually do portraits and landscapes and recently I only do abstract paintings. I have nearly a hundred paintings in reserve that I would like to exhibit soon.

What is your advice to young jazz musicians?

Believe in what you play or study, be honest, focused and serious in your public performances. Prepare your repertoire very carefully, rehearse and practice regularly. Interact creatively with other jazz musicians. Innovate and keep abreast of new developments in jazz around the world, and of course, practice, practice, practice.

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Posted: Sunday, May 01, 2022, 07:00 IST

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