International Jazz Day: ‘I love the sophistication in jazz,' says Louiz Banks about the genre

International Jazz Day: ‘I love the sophistication in jazz,' says Louiz Banks about the genre

Referred to as the Godfather of Indian Jazz, Banks was happy that the 11th Edition held on April, was in the offline format, after a break of two years

Verus FerreiraUpdated: Saturday, April 30, 2022, 11:51 PM IST
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Referred to as the Godfather of Indian Jazz, Banks was happy that the 11th Edition held yesterday, was in the offline format, after a break of two years.

You grew up with many musical influences. What was it about jazz that made you to take it up?

Jazz had everything that I longed for in music. Sophistication, exciting harmonic progressions, great rhythmic values, and the freedom to express yourself freely, where one could  bend rules  and not sound the same twice. I loved these concepts. Jazz is my passion.

In 2019, you collaborated with Sufi and ghazal singer Pooja Gaitonde. How did this come about and how did you prepare for fusing Sufi and jazz music?

It was an interesting collaboration. In Sufism you talk to the God. It is very deep emotionally and very melodic as well, when I heard the music I felt that jazz could be fused with it. I wanted to experiment with the emotional side of jazz, the bluesy side of jazz. Pooja was ready to try the fusion of Sufi with jazz and we even called Sufi Jazz. I loved it and wanted to experiment with different  harmonic progressions  and melodic expressions. I’m ready to create more Sufi Jazz with Pooja.

You were recently approached by Artium to be part of its faculty and help youth in music education. Can you tell us something about it and a few details on what the course is all about?

I am always very keen to guide young musicians to make them more proficient in performance, to grow constantly. In India, I have found there is not much focus on western music education per se, its mostly that youngsters take up an instrument, learn to play with some home tutoring and start performing. Some of them excel surprisingly but most them remain average musicians all their lives. This is where a sound music education can help towards being a better musician and eventually a world class musician. 

You religiously curate International Jazz Day every year on 30th April. Do you think this helps to foster the love for jazz in India?

Every little activity, project  that you do towards projecting jazz  helps to keep the spirit of jazz alive. It is also a big incentive and motivation for musicians who are playing jazz or trying to get into jazz.

We have lost many jazz greats. Who do you miss, as a friend and as a musician?

In India, I do miss a few great jazz musicians who used to play with me like guitarist Carlton Kitto, singer Pam Crain , guitarist Chad Bronkhurst, bassist Peter Saldhana. I was a big admirer of the great trumpeter Chic Chocolate, trumpeter Chris Perry, among others. 

You changed your name from Louis to Louiz, any reason for this?

I had gone with my wife Lorraine to a numerologist for some advice and clarification on a name change when I suddenly got the idea to ask him if he would take a look at my name — Louis. He pondered  and looked at his notes and suggested that if I changed the ‘s’ in my name to ‘z’, it would bring me great luck and prosperity. I loved the alphabet ‘z’, and from that day I started to spell my name with a ‘z’ it worked like magic.

How do you spend your free time?

I write a lot of new compositions, besides that I love to paint, it’s my second passion. I love to watch movies too. I also spend time with my family, have fun with my grandson Jadyn.

What kind of paintings?

I usually do portraits and landscapes and recently I only do abstract paintings. I have close to a hundred paintings in storage that I would like to exhibit sometime soon.

What’s your advice to young jazz musicians?

Believe in what you are playing or studying, be honest, focused and serious about your public performances. Prepare your repertoire  very carefully, rehearse and practise regularly. Interact creatively with fellow jazz musicians. Innovate and keep abreast of new developments  in jazz around the world, and of course, practise, practise, practise.

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