Piano Improvisation Series
Michael Robinson and Anindo Chatterjee
Throng My Memory
Azure Miles Records Piano Improvisation Series
Cover art is handmade paper from India
available on myriad additional platforms
Michael Robinson and Anindo Chatterjee's Reinterpretation of Standards (All About Jazz)
1. Cherokee 74:48
Michael Robinson - piano
Anindo Chatterjee - tabla
Mixed and Mastered by Rick Savage
Recorded by Catharine Wood
All songs used with licensing permission from the publishers
Throng My Memory features Cherokee
Begin features Hey Jude
Found Joy features All the Things You Are and Sweet Lorraine
Those Sighs features (Love Is) The Tender Trap and Angel Eyes
Preparing for our sessions with phone conversations, and in the studio before recording began, I explained to my Guruji, Anindo Chatterjee, my vision for piano and tabla duets, which as far as I know is unprecedented.
Jazz is largely about a triple feel superimposed on a single beat most often using duple meters, creating an inherent tension replete with creatively expressive accents and syncopations, and how we are dualistic in terms of ears, hands, arms, legs, and walking.
With this in mind, and knowing of connecting thekas or tabla patterns with a similar triple feel, I found examples of these online, and sent them to Guruji, whereby he quickly understood my conceptual basis for our collaboration which was reinforced upon our meeting in the studio.
Anindo Chatterjee is legendary for his sui generis touch, tone, articulation, expression, superhuman speed and Bach-like improvisational inventiveness and architecture achieving the spiritual yearning of Indian classical musicians to be a conduit for divinity.
Guruji and I met formally during the summer of 2018 when I had four private four-hour lessons, not studying tabla specifically, but rather the technical and expressive concepts informing his playing, something I've done with other Indian masters towards advancing my composing. Our personalities blended well, and Guruji expressed great enthusiasm for the quality of my questions together with admiration for samples of my compositions he heard. There was never a thought at the time of my becoming a jazz pianist.
My jazz guru, Lee Konitz, was in my thoughts momentarily while recording two of his favorite standards, All the Things You Are and Cherokee, with my current Guruji, whose amazing instincts and musicality assimilated songs he had never heard before in ways never heard before. It was hard to believe I was extemporizing with someone I've only listened to on recordings or in concert with artists like Nikhil Banerjee, Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia before, an auspicious start given this was my first piano session with another musician, having focused on solo recordings to date. (My duet albums with drummer Eliot Zigmund were recorded one month after these albums in November 2022.)
During a break, I told Anindo about the time I met George Harrison and he sang Charukeshi for me. Without missing a matra, Anindo then shared how he met George following a London concert with Ravi Shankar, the sitarist he accompanied many times.
We actually improvised on Cherokee for 75 minutes. I thought it was maybe 30 minutes while doing so, and was surprised to learn the actual duration. That's just the way, to give one possible explanation, I'm what I was once told by an astrologist is a pure Pisces - Sun in Pisces and Moon in Pisces; synergizing jazz and raga at once, moving in two directions at once.
Improvising on a jazz standard for twenty or thirty minutes, or sometimes an hour or more, is natural for me given my raga orientation added to my jazz immersion together with realizing how standards are the ragas of jazz. Content and substance from feeling and balance are key.
Creative minds draw freely from all conscious and subconscious experience yielding new inventions and alloys. For improvisation, a left hand double bass and tamboura amalgam sparked by Lennie Tristano freed my jazz and raga orientations together - I came alive.
I especially love being so importantly influenced by Tristano because he was the teacher of my teacher, Lee Konitz.
Central to what's known as "swing" in jazz is a distinctive style, unique musicians swinging their own original way, some so unconventionally it becomes an intrinsic part of a new approach to improvising jazz, allowing to articulate inner feel into sound.
Hey Jude, arguably the defining song of my American generation, turned into an extended odyssey, too, lasting just under 78 minutes. I've never heard of it being improvised in this way in the least.
All praise to Jocelyn for somehow turning me into a pianist, and to Jerry Sharell and Vincent Guarino for reigniting my love for Frank Sinatra, pointing me in directions for a deeper and fuller appreciation of his vocal and musical genius, really essential for my continuing interpretive and improvisational development.
And all praise to Ehren Hanson who enthusiastically shared my idea of recording to our common Guruji, Anindo Chattejee, who then wrote somehow knowing prior to our session here in Los Angeles: "We ll have an amazing rec. i guarranty. Dont feel nurvous. Just play openly and relax."
Coincidently, Jocelyn and I were both born on March 11, with Lennie Tristano born March 19 and George Harrison on February 25, all Pisces. Lee Konitz once shared with me what he termed a strange mystical sensation when his friend and colleague, Charlie Parker, left us on March 12, one day before the birthday of Lee's father on March 13. Bird had been scheduled to perform with Lee in Boston. Anindo Chatterjee is Gemini, born May 30.
On our first of two afternoon sessions, slated for rehearsal, things progressed so rapidly we ended up recording three tracks. Discussing our plans for a second afternoon of recording, Anindo was surprised to hear how we would be doing all new pieces, including how I never really know what's to be played, spontaneously selecting from dozens of possibilities in the moment. "You have courage!" he affirmed.
Charlie Parker, introduced to me by Rollan Masciarelli, flashed through my thoughts briefly while recording All the Things You Are and Cherokee, too, these being ultimate favorite standards of both himself and Lee Konitz. I even spontaneously emulated the melodic shape of some favorite phrases from Parker's famous Cherokee (Koko) solo a few times during the recording, altering the pitches and rhythms.
Bird and Cherokee flash before me involuntarily when drinking juice from an elegant ceramic Japanese cup sold to me by an intriguing woman named Koko on Melrose.
- Michael Robinson, February 2023, Los Angeles
© 2023 Michael Robinson All rights reserved