A musical storm from the Northeast
The final day of the Jazz & Blues Fest Dhaka began with some very disappointing news, but by the end of the night, that was somewhat forgotten, as Soulmate transformed Le Meridien hotel's rooftop stage to the eye of a veritable blues-rock storm.
Lurrie Bell and the Chicago Blues Band, one of the most-anticipated names on this year's festival bill, was supposed to close the festival on Tuesday, but organisers informed of a last-minute change due to some inevitable situations, and the final day's performances opened with a last-minute addition to the festival, US-based jazz trumpeter Avishai Cohen (not to be composed/confused) with the double bass-playing jazz musician of the same name). Despite his tall frame and Viking-like facial hair, his set was smooth and mellow, with pitter-pattering piano and a walking bassline a feature of his pieces. He opened with a track called “Life and Death”, and the soothing tone of the trumpet took the audience on a journey. His two other notable pieces, “Dream Like A Child” and “Nature's Dance” were also testament of his musical philosophy – sensitive, calming and spreading a feeling of warmth.
Ranjot Barot, another heavyweight performer of the festival, took the stage next, in a familiar ensemble. His band consisted of the same musicians of the previous night's Miles Davis tribute set – Kevin Scott on bass guitar, Sean Freeman on tenor sax and Osam Ezzeldin on keys. The UK-based Indian drummer-vocalist-composer had performed in the last edition of the festival as well, and was at ease from the get go. He opened with an original composition, “Indian Aria”, and after a couple more tracks of fine jazz improvisations, invited Gary Husband on the piano. The group's musical chemistry remained as marvelous as the previous day, although the musical style was a little difference. Barot also showed off his Indian foundation, doing complex 'bols' (often used with tabla or Carnatic percussion instruments) with his mouth before rocking them on the bass pedal and crash cymbals. The combination of Husband's pure piano sounds with Ezzeldin's more synth-like tones also made for some interesting moments.
Soulmate, the Shillong-based blues-rock duo of Tripti 'Tips' Kharbanga and Rudy Wallang along with a touring band of a drummer and a bassist, was the final act of the night and the festival, and they rose to the occasion. The band was also on the last edition's lineup of the festival, and it gave them a certain advantage of reading the audience better. Opening with a one of blues' most recognizable tunes – BB King's “Every Day I Got The Blues”, Tips thrust into the performance full throttle as she channeled her inner Etta James with “Blues is My Business”. Tips powerhouse vocals and Rudy Wallang's feel-oozing riffs kept the night going in a rapid-fire set of performances, mixing in originals and covers – their own numbers “Set Me Free” and “Don't You Go and Make Me Blue”, to classics like “Rock Me” (originally by Muddy Waters), Koko Taylor's “Voodoo Woman” and Buddy Guy's “Let Me Love You Baby” -- sharing the vocal duties. They got the audience off the feet and dancing, and wishing for more. It was a fitting end to a festival that defied many obstacles to take place, and the blues and jazz-loving crowd of Dhaka owes a tip of the hat to Blues Communications for their commitment and hard work.