Photographer: Rana Chakraborty
Artie Shaw’s rhythm wriggles past the shut entrance door of Jude Valladares’s Pali Naka apartment, a backlit silhouette beckoning passersby to ring the bell. Inside, sunlight gushes through large windows on either side illuminating the simple sitting room’s only distinct characters: a sideboard altar, with a large picture of Mary and Jesus, and a mini desk with a turntable — playing Shaw, playing his clarinet. A low settee and centre table are covered with jazz records from Valladares’s 500 odd collection, books on jazz, jazz magazines, jazz photographs, and record covers — one autographed by the great alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano.
Valladares, a thin bespectacled man with a sharp moustache, has opened the door perfunctorily, before turning back to his turntable, eyes half closed, head subtly swaying. Rhythm is essential to jazz, which otherwise belies structure, and Valladares, referred to by jazz aficionados in the city as a ‘jazz encyclopedia’, doesn’t want to lose his.
“The pre jazz era comprised work songs, rural blues, gospel songs, spirituals, classic woman blues, urban blues…” he begins. Valladares then explains ragtime and early jazz, the Chicago ’20s, ’30s swing, bebop, Woody Herman, Dizzy Gillespie’s Afro Cuban, West Coast avant garde, East Coast free style, cool jazz, European jazz, new wave and fusion to wind up with jazz rock and funk of the ’70s and ’80s. He breaks only to play records and CDs demonstrating the style nuances he speaks of.
Valladares discovered jazz in 1963 in a Lonavla movie theatre: “Red Nichols’ Three Blind Mice And Backroom Blues in the film 5 Pennies.” Today, he calls it his “first wife”. His reasons for preferring this genre are the same as that of most jazz loyals: “You can’t listen to a pop song over and over again like you can do with bebop. And classical music doesn’t allow for as much experimentation.”
The Music Goes Round And Round by McCoy plays, followed by Ben Webster’s Danny Boy, George Benson and The Big Boss Band rendering Skylark, T Monk’s Epistrophy… Valladares insists on a different kind of jazz for each time of the day “like the ragas”. He recounts tales of legendary greatness like guitarist Django Reinhardt’s comeback despite two paralyzed fingers, the near blind genius Art Tatum, Stan Kenton co-ordinating 44 musicians, Maynard Ferguson lending his name to the MF Horn albums and Glenn Miller composing the Moonlight Serenade across a coffee table in 15 minutes. Valladares hasn’t traveled much, but his listening to and studying over ten decades of America’s most venerated musical art form transports the faded sofa he reclines on to Kansas City’s Sunset Café or a New Orleans jazz fest at will. Jazz music, which was born as the only expression of an oppressed, mangled African-American community and later amalgamated and adapted by most countries, has found yet another home.
In these tech-savvy times when everyone resorts to internet downloads or Google searches to assimilate such a repertoire, Valladares’s knowledge and music stands out for having been cherry picked arduously — one book, an image, a magazine and a record at a time. Yet, he never mentions using this understanding as a lecturer or a businessman would. While changing a vinyl yet again, he says: “Just as food and drink feed my body, I need this music to feed my soul.” Valladares’s road to redemption, like any, is an extremely personal choice, except for one necessary commonality — its length.
This article appeared originally in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/ndft