CHENNAI: When you’re the godfather of Indian jazz, the question is not who you’ve played with, but who you haven’t. We caught up with the ever famous, Louis Banks who was in Chennai over the weekend for the Madras Jazz Festival organized by The Exodus. As it turns out, 50 years of playing music still doesn’t keep this man away from waking up in the morning and composing a new tune. Excerpts from the interview:
We saw you play at the Madras Jazz Festival at Phoenix Market City with all the big wigs in the jazz circuit. Will we get to see you working your Indo-jazz magic with Silk anytime soon?
You know everybody in the band (Sivamani, Shankar Mahadevan and Karl Peters) has become so big now. So we’ve reached that stage where it’s always ‘soon soon...’ (laughs) Shankar keeps saying to me: ‘It’s high time we do a show’ and I say: ‘I’m ready!’ I’m an eternal optimist though so let’s hope it happens soon.
We’re halfway through the year. Is there anything special you have been working on?
Yes (smiles). I released six albums this year.
Six albums in six months?
Yes! Among them is a piano solo album, a progressive jazz album and a two-part project called Jazz Maniacs where I’ve recorded with saxophonists from all over the world...George Brooks, Karl Clemens, Yuichiro Tokuda. I think that probably took the longest.
Wow, that is some heavy-duty work ethic. Do you sleep at all?
(Laughs) Yes, I sleep! But I’m very strict with myself. I almost never go to bed after 11. I wake up at 6 am and do some painting and then I get into the studio by 10 am. I think what really helps is that we have a studio at home.
So what is lined up next?
Right now I’m working on an album with vocal tracks as well, as opposed to just instrumental. We’ve got this a seven-member a cappella group from Mumbai called Raaga Trippin singing on the album, they’re really good.
After performing alongside the best in the business all these years, is there anyone you have yet to collaborate with?
I’ve always wanted to record with U Srinivas. I have so many ideas about what we could do together, and he’s such a favourite musician of mine...
We’ve heard so much of your music over the years. Here’s a question for the fans: tell us one thing we don’t know about you.
I make amazing Hakka noodles and Chilli prawns. Does that count?