Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Amitabh Choudhury
Alto and Tenor Saxophone
1994 - 2001

Many considered him a legend, “The king of Jazz”, they called him. Others hailed him as a fabulous musician and a great human being. To us brethren, he was just good ol’ GRANDPA.

It was sometime in the spring of ’83 (or was it 84 / 85? the cells grow grey, memories grow old! So pardon the exact dates or years). I was a little student in the Primary school at Prashanthi Nilayam. It was then that a couple of us first heard the tunes from the original Yamahas / Holtons wafting across the school grounds. We also heard that Mr. Maynard Fergusson had come to town.

Good ol’ Grandpa came to our Lord, bringing along with him an infectious zest to live and play music. And play he did, straight into the heart of our beloved Bhagawan and all in the premises of our beautiful Prashanthi Nilayam. Swami heard the yearning in his music and straightaway dispatched him to meet with our senior brothers. A tempest was brewing and the Lord knew it. Well this one certainly was a wonderful Tempest!

I recollect those to be the days when our senior Band of Brothers would attack each musical piece with gusto, memorize the entire piece and then come together alive to play their hearts out for our Lord.

I joined the Band in the year of 1994 and found myself playing my heart out too, only difference was that we had started reading musical scores and had also become extremely conscious in trying to hear each other and play as one sound. Quite a few of these later developments were also due to the devoted efforts of a few other great musicians along with Maynard, namely Mr. David Bailey and Mr. Paul Erhard.

Through all these times, times of fun playing music together, times of sweat and toil to get our respective scores perfect, times of … well lots of things, our dear good ol’ Grandpa was always there - enthusing our efforts and bringing life to our music. The amazing yarns he spun out of thin air, his extempore versions of various famous scores, his instant musical creations on the trumpet, the cornet and also the soprano sax were a source of constant elation to our young hearts and lives.

As I read the innumerable tributes paid to our beloved Grandpa, I still faintly hear those first tunes of the Yamahas after all these long gone by years. Years when we look back across the distant yonder and wonder at the marvel created by Maynard Ferguson. A marvel which we were all such a cherished part of. A marvel which we lovingly call the “Band”. A marvel for which today we affectionately remember the man who started it all.

Across the span of these years, the Band’s tunes still play on in our hearts with our dear ol’ Grandpa’s jubilant face etched all over it.


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