Louiz Banks is acknowledged as India’s premier jazz pianist and been variously called “Godfather of Indian Jazz” and “Father of Jazz in India”. He has firmly established himself as one of the foremost composers of music soundtracks for advertising, theatre, TV and feature films since the last five decades. In fact, he is considered to be the most prolific composer of advertising jingles, having recorded an incredible 7000 jingles in a span of 15 years!
Yet, despite his tremendous commercial success, his first love remains jazz and he’s performed and collaborated internationally with some of the biggest names in jazz music and also with India’s top classical and popular musicians. And when he’s not making music, he’s painting. Not many people know about this hidden talent as an accomplished painter. We caught up with Louiz Banks at his latest concert Transcendence 2.0 held recently in Mumbai, a tribute to Jazz legend Oscar Peterson (piano), and Carnatic legend T. Chowdiah (violin).
In an interview with The Statesman, the veteran shared spoke about Oscar Peterson, the future of Jazz in India and his plans among other things.
Why did you pick Oscar Peterson to pay tribute to?
The answer to that question will cover a few volumes. In short, because Oscar Peterson is unanimously acknowledged as one of the greatest exponents of jazz piano and he continues to inspire all students of this genre. My own switch to jazz piano took place when my father introduced me to Oscar Peterson, and that was the turning point in my musical studies and pursuits. Hence I would like to pay homage to the greatness of Oscar Peterson.
What was your idea of performing with Carnatic artists?
I strongly believe that sophisticated and discerning listeners want to see musicians create art with passion, creativity, and originality. They want to enjoy and experience innovation. Transcendence 2.0 featured some of the most creative musicians in India who did dazzle the audience with exciting and original music…live on stage…transporting both audience and musicians into another Music galaxy…”
What do you think of the idea of Transcendence?
I want to congratulate the creators of the Transcendence series of concerts for initiating this concept of original creativity in Music Presentation… this, in turn, will inspire a whole new generation of serious-minded musicians to aspire to higher goals in music production and performance.
What do you remember best about your days in Calcutta?
The night sessions at Blue Fox with one of the best bands I’ve ever had and the Kathi rolls from Nizam and Chinese food at Tangra and of my momentous meeting with Lorraine who later became my wife.
Which musicians of your era, do you think, did not get their due in the form of success?
Guitarist Carlton Kitto, bassist Peter Saldanha, trumpeter James Dias, drummer Johnny Edmonds, singer Pam Crain, and Don Saigal
Few in India know that you have had two Grammy nominations in the same year,2008. Can you tell us something about it?
That was a great year for me. I was involved extensively as a performer, co-producer and arranger for ‘Miles from India’ and as keyboardist on ‘Floating Point’. Memorable and unforgettable moments in my career.
What do you see in the future of jazz in India?
It’s all in the hands of serious-minded young musicians to take the music further and higher. And happily, I see it happening today. I know this for sure because I interact and play jazz with a lot of very talented youngsters.
You have been making music for such a long time, what keeps you going?
The infinite joy of playing jazz in all its myriad colors and hues. Jazz stimulates me, it challenges all my creative faculties and makes my life worth living.
Does it occur to you that you could you have done better internationally if you had moved abroad?
Yes, I could have been very famous internationally and would have honed my skills even further. But I am very happy to be here in India and do my bit in whatever way as performer, composer, music director, visionary and teacher, mentor and guide. A big fish in a small pond!
When are your plans for the future?
To go on playing, composing new music, recording all my music, interacting with young people and just having a whale of a good time…I thank my parents and God for the gift of music that they have given me. I thank my family for their love and support. And hopefully, to go on living music for eternity and pass on my legacy to aspiring youngsters, my son Gino heads the list.