Few artists from the West perform in India. Eddie Izzard was here in February, in mid March the remnants of Dire Straits played in Gurgaon, and last year Cold Play did a concert in Mumbai. When I heard that the famous American jazz guitarist, Stanley Jordan, was coming to Delhi to play at a jazz festival, I had to get tickets.
The venue was One Golden Mile, in the southern suburbs of New Delhi. The festival began at 5pm, in the open air. The first act was Smiti and Adhir, a female singer accompanied by a guitarist. She was followed by a trio (guitar, drums and keyboard) called Aman Kartikeya Pranai. An Italian group played Brazilian-influenced music. Their bass player used an electric double bass, which I had never seen before.
Stanley was the last act. He is a solo artist who uses a very peculiar technique. He rapidly taps a string, causing it to vibrate and make a sound. The harder he taps, the louder the note. He uses two hands to tap the fretboard. Apart from using his fingers as hammers, he also strums the strings occasionally. He can play the melody and accompanying chords at the same time. It really is remarkable to see and hear, so I recommend that you check him out on Youtube.
He played a wonderful version of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” which would have knocked my socks off, if I’d been wearing any. I didn’t care much for his piece of freeform improvisation, perhaps because my musical taste is not so sophisticated when it comes to jazz guitar. He told the audience that his favourite composer was Mozart, and proceeded to play part of his piano concerto number 21 in C major on the guitar. It was a virtuoso performance.
Stanley moved on to the piano, which he played with one hand while he played the guitar with his other hand. And he sang, too. He also played a piece by Bela Bartok, another of the classical composers whom he admires.
Stanley was not just here in Delhi to perform. He came to teach at a series of workshops as well. If you get the chance to go and see him live, do it. You won’t regret it.