Brian Molley and his band had no idea that an audience of over a thousand people would burst into song — Happy Birthday — a few minutes after he came onstage at Jodhpur RIFF last month. The Scottish saxophonist couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome. “We knew the welcome in India would be great but I didn’t think this would happen,” says Molley, 39, backstage after the show.
The Brian Molley Quartet comprises Molley on soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, Mario Caribé on double bass, Stuart Brown on drums and Delhi boy Utsav Lal on piano (replacing original member Tom Gibbs), and is on their first tour of India. So what’s a jazz act doing at a folk festival? “Scottish music, jazz would seem rather different, but there are similarities with Indian classical and folk music, in the skills that are used and the textures that are created,” says Molley, whose group has collaborated with Manganiyar musicians at RIFF. An unusual jugalbandi between a sarangi player and the Scott’s tenor sax was one of the highlights of the 9th edition of the festival. “Indian folk music is complex, rhythmically but so is jazz. The jazz that we play deals with a lot of complex rhythmic music, especially music from Brazil,” says Molley.
The group’s debut album, Clock, shows his affinity for bossa nova by opening the album with the up-tempo and yet easy Cara y Cruz, led by Brown on the drums with Molley and Gibbs deftly careening over notes and moods. “The harmony in bossa nova is well-crafted and exciting,” says Molley, who attributes band member Caribé with introducing him to different genres of Brazilian music. Barring two songs, the rest of the 10-track album has been composed by Molley, who built his career teaching music, playing in recording studios and backing bands for many years before he came into his own with the quartet which was formed in 2012. A year later, they released Clock to widespread acclaim.
Molley played the piano till he turned 11, and then turned his attention to the saxophone. “My dad’s a really big jazz fan. Stan Getz, John Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins have been inspirations early on,” says Molley. At RIFF, Molley played several tunes including the haunting Iris and her Bow, and When I Talk About Swimming, a whimsical composition that emerged from the time Molley spent swimming, for a year. But he is reluctant to take solo credit for the final tunes. “It’s important for all of us to have the freedom to express our personalities for the music to work,” he says.
The Brian Molley Quartet plays at Charbagh at the British Council in Delhi this evening and at Windmill Craftworks in Bangalore on November 6 and 7. Pre-registration required.
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