An anecdote, narrated by Amyt Datta, from the annals of rock music legend seemed to perfectly encapsulate the evening&’s vibe. It ran thus — Frank Zappa once took the stage at a concert and for 45 minutes flat, shouted expletives at the audience. Understandably, most of the crowd left except four guys who decided to stay back and to their surprise, Zappa and his band played a four-hour gig only for them. The moral of the story — at times, you have to endure the odd transgression if you wish to savour good music. 

The transgression in question during a recent evening in Kolkata was the air-conditioning system coming a cropper as 500 people sweated their way through a two-hour concert by guitar god Datta and his acoustic orchestra at the Max Mueller Bhavan auditorium. A privileged few left, evidently being unable to handle the heat, but for those who did stay on, it was a gig for the ages. On more than one occasion, Datta thanked the audience for bearing with the elements, as they were, but such hardships formed a mere footnote as the music trumped all else. 

For some time now, Datta has been dabbling in dissonance as a viable aspect of his repertoire and the complex harmonic innovations attested to the depths of his mastery over the guitar. His music mirrors any great book because it is often as difficult to read but once the ear gets attuned to the crests and troughs of the sound, the rewards for a discerning listener are limitless. 

Mainly rendering songs from his last two electric-laced albums, Ambiance de Danse (2013) and Pietra Dura (2015), in a strictly acoustic vocabulary, Datta was brilliantly accompanied in a rich ensemble by six other gifted musicians from the city and beyond. Ritoban Das and Dwaipayan Saha were on percussions while a young and fresh-faced Akash Ganguly stood out on bass.  Arinjoy Sircar played the nylon strings guitar and Jonathan Kay was on alto saxophone. But the person who lifted the whole orchestra was Pratik Shrivastava on sarod — his strains perfectly complemented and at times, accentuated the sounds from the other instruments. Songs like Dance Acoustica, Ironic Bironic, Camellia and The Chase from Ambiance de Danse and Black Pages and Remembrance (composed almost 20 years ago by Datta) from Pietra Dura showcased the brilliance of each musician. The ensemble also played Pulse from Datta&’s soon-to-release album, Amino Acid. 

Datta said that he loved playing at Max Mueller Bhavan and having done so for almost 25 years, felt the environment there was “close and intimate”. Going by the legendary guitarist&’s harmonic experimentations, one only wishes to support him on an arduous sonic quest.