Jazz and lots more

contemporary

French musicians are always on the forefront in pushing the envelope and extending the boundaries of musical genres. While some succeed, bringing in new and exciting sounds, some of them go over the edge and thankfully get lost. One of the bands that has succeeded in generating a new sound and done so in an unprecedented style is the French band NoJazz.

Drawing from various styles of music like jazz, electronic, world, rap, techno, trip hop and so on, the band has managed to create a completely unique style of its own, which defies categorisation. The concept for its music is to mix the original celebratory spirit of jazz with contemporary sounds and hypnotic rhythms.

Acoustic and jungle, trip hop and fanfares, melodies and samples, funk and jazz mingle with percussion and bass to create its unique sound. Describing the band’s music as a combination of syncopated danceable rhythms, words, modalities and melodies from around the world, Philippe Balatier, keyboardist and sampler artist says, “It is music for the iPod even before the invention of the iPod!” The primary influence, however, is jazz but NoJazz has ripped the thinking man’s music and made it the dancing and thinking man’s music.

The five-piece Parisian band was put together in 2001 with musicians from diverse backgrounds, that originally played as two separate bands, coming together to form NoJazz. The current lineup includes Philippe Sellam (Slam), saxophonist, Philippe Balatier (Balatman), the keyboardist and sampling wizard, Pascal Reva (Bilbo), multi-instrument drummer and bassist, Sylvain Gontard (Iron Sly), virtuoso trumpet player, and HKB Finn, the talented singer and juggler of words from London.

Explosive mix

The band released its explosive first self-titled album in 2002 with Teo Macero, the legendary producer of Miles Davis’ ‘Columbia Years’ in New York. Taking it from there, the band’s fame spread like wildfire and led to live performances around the world. The band then went on to release ‘No Limits’ in 2004, ‘Have Fun’ in 2005 and ‘Zoo Land’ in 2009.

The band, however, prefers to play live music and is happy to go into the studio once every few years to put together an album. They have performed live in over 50 countries around the world and have featured in major festivals like the Montreal Jazz Festival, Miami JVC, La Villette jazz fest, Jazz Open Stuttgart, Cervantino Mexico, Madajazzcar, Pop Kom in Berlin and Nice Jazz Festival.

They have also toured diverse locations like Warsaw, Johannesburg, Bombay, Los Angeles, Seville and Moscow. The band just concluded its whirlwind tour of India, performing in eight cities across the country.

Talking about some of their most memorable shows, Pascal Reva remembers the “concert in Quebec which had several stages and an audience of over 15,000 and we went to the wrong stage and had just 15 minutes to do a sound check but it turned out to be one of the most memorable shows.”

Collaborations

NoJazz has a history of many major collaborations resulting in some great music. From the energetic Mangu, the Afro-Cuban rap star, to Claude Challe. Their successive tours in the United States enabled them to build a collaboration with the group Earth, Wind & Fire. While in the US, NoJazz had sessions with the legendary Maurice White and Stevie Wonder on the album ‘Have Fun’, along with the participation of Bishop Lamont. This followed a Brazilian adventure with a local star, Ademir Cândido, and a session with Merlot. They also enjoyed a collaboration with Thierry Ardisson for ‘Hi Earthlings’. In 2011, for the band’s 10th anniversary, they played with Andy Emler, Benedict Sourisse, Dominique Fillon, Jean-Marie Ecay, Maraca and Mangu.

Nojazz also shared the stage with Morcheeba at the Nice Jazz Festival, and Kenny Garrett at the Atrium in Martinique, for the opening of Madajazzcar. The band fondly remembers the collaboration with Stevie Wonder as one of their best.

Talking exclusively with Sunday Herald about their first and recently concluded India tour, the band displayed a very good grasp on the India cultural scenario. The band has a great regard for Satyajit Ray films. Musically, they have only heard major classical stars like Pandit Ravishankar, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Ustad Zakir Hussain and the likes of them. HKB Finn has however worked with Nithin Sawhney and Talvin Singh in the UK. They are keen on collaborating with Indian musicians.

The band recently performed an electrifying concert in Bangalore for the launch of French café & bar, Chez Nous, in Novotel. This concert also marked the World Music Day celebrations for Alliance Française.

NoJazz will release their new album later this year, which is basically a collection of their best live shows and will also feature eclectic collaborations. This will be live and raw with no studio touch-ups or remastering. With the success of the recently-concluded tour, India will definitely be on the radar for this incredibly talented band.

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