Amongst the jazz-listening audience in India, Madhav Chari was one of India’s finest pianists who was on his way to building international recognition. Unfortunately, his life was cut short in 2015 when he passed away due to a cardiac arrest at the age of 48.
Now, the virtuoso’s legacy lives on with the posthumously-released album From The Other Side. Before we get into the musical part of the seven-track compilation, understanding the context is important.
The title “from the other side” refers to the alienation that Chari faced as an Indian in the American jazz space. One doesn’t need to be a music geek to know that jazz as a genre has had its roots in America. Much like his peers, Chari’s inspirations also included American legends like Duke Ellington, Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. In fact, he has gone on record to say that these artists have been constant inspirations for his own music.
But his foreign peers thought otherwise and began gatekeeping the genre for our Indian pianist. Chari was asked by fellow musicians to incorporate ragas and Indian instruments to make his music more “genuine”. But in this era of globalisation, what even is authentic? And does the First World really hold the right to morally police the art of others? Chari’s work sought to answer these questions with his own brand of jazz. It might sound melodramatic but Indian-origin artists like him proved that they too can charm overseas crowds with their own art.
Accompanied by bassist Santi Debriano and drummer Ben Perowsky, Chari’s tracks on From The Other Side reflect his proficiency with the standard jazz piano trio setting. If jazz purists are to get into the subgenres, then the album reflects hints of bebop and post-bop jazz.
But you don’t have to be a jazz nerd to experience the music of this newly-released album (which actually was recorded way back in 1999). The album opens with the playful I’ll Take Romance and progresses towards mellower picks like Evening Song. There’s something for everyone in this album and hence, it is difficult to pinpoint any particular favourites.
The instrumental tracks follow the classical route with durations of eight to ten minutes. Yes, this might dissatisfy new-age listeners who might be used to 2-minute tunes. However, the easygoing and smooth nature of Chari’s keys along with the charming drumming and bass work will ensure that you don’t feel the duration weighing on you. If you need some music to hype you up during work and not use up much of your greymatter, From The Other Side will do the job.
Modern-day listeners might also not avidly listen to the jazz greats of the past. But if you are into jazzy film soundtracks like La La Land and Birdman, then again Chari’s album might pique your interest with its “calming jazzy chaos”.
In the end, Chari might be no more but his legacy still lives on with this beautiful remnant of a musical past.
Verdict: Calming jazzy chaos of a late genius.