A Bop Shaped Plantation

Aman Mahajan and Mishko M’Ba spoke to EXEC on the Shape of Jazz, a tribute show to the musical genius of Ornette Coleman at Plantation House on the evening of November 24.

Had it been a triangle or a pentagon or a square, the duo would have been able to explain but Coleman’s music, and his album “The Shape of Jazz to Come” an inspiration for the show breaks away from the strictures that gave birth to Free Jazz and the Bebop spirit of Coleman. As the duo said, there was no definite play list for the show because it was more of improvisations on different keys and rhythms except for some tracks like- “When Will the Blues Leave”, an improvisation on the 12-bar blues, Coleman’s “The Blessing” and one or two classical pieces and a Japanese victory tune related to the narrative of “Haiku” in terms of its compositional structure. Marten Visser, the programmer for the show, Aman Mahajan (keyboards) and Mishko M’ Ba (bass) shared some facts about the show and the music.

Why Ornette?

It’s more about “Free Jazz” when it comes to Coleman and the idea for this show was born out of Coleman’s album “The Shape of Jazz To Come”.

The audience does not require homework in particular scales and chords to enjoy such music. Coleman’s music was avant-garde in his early years and popular now. The 1960’s and 1970’s witnessed music movements starting from Fusion to Progressive Jazz and Jazz-rock and Coleman’s music was all about the soul, the harmalodics and improvisation and an initiation for these dynamic movements.

Martin Visser is of the opinion that Coleman disappointed many of his early fans when he laid hands on instruments like the violin, but being a free spirited musician himself Martin likes it, but prefers Coleman’s Early years of Free Jazz in terms of musicality.

Like Painting and Freedom

Mishko M’Ba said when the camera was introduced the Impressionism in painting began in Europe that captured moments and moods of the day through colours and etchings and then there were movements like Surrealism and Cubism, all aimed towards bringing something more to painting than just painting itself which copied elements in a frame (which the camera anyway did), something more in terms of geometry, the dimensions, the meanings and so on. Similarly Coleman’s music, Free Jazz and the Bebop movement broke away from conventions and gave something new to music-“the independence of thought”. It was freedom. And this freedom was also inspired from the political movements, revolutions and new schools of thought in the twentieth century. Mishko M’Ba continues with a hearty message- “we are all walking like robots and paying tribute to the Picasso of Jazz that is Coleman is only a message that a time has come for something new in jazz which may appear avant-garde now but become popular in time.”


Improvised Geometry, Aman Mahajan thinks, implies to the freedom to create on the restricted set of norms. He shared a little bit of History on Coleman’s album- The Shape of Jazz To Come and said that Coleman himself was not very fond of piano playing on this album and later he tried to break away from just chords and piano playing for the gigs. Aman thinks, when it comes to improvising on a gig dedicated to the spirit of Coleman’s music its best to play more melody lines and experiment with the rhythm than play monotonous chord progressions. He leaves from the interview with a grin and before moving over to the performance says- “I will try and play minimum number of chords” because we all know, Coleman’s watching.

Check out their music at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hjhwh1HjOU

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