Germany, like India, has a rich history of classical music. The German artistes have accomplished themselves in various genres, be it western classical, rock, pop or even electronic. Though Jazz is not as big as the other genres, it does hold its own place in the musical landscape of the country. A major reason for its survival has been the artistes who have infused jazz with local and classical music from across the world.
Frankfurt based jazz collective, Max Clouth Clan is one such band which incorporates Western and Indian influences and have developed a characteristic sound. The band is known for their unique improvisations.
The frontman of the collective, Max Clouth, was artistically inclined from his childhood but his choice of art was not music, it was painting instead.
“I chose the guitar because it is more direct. When you play music you are directly connected with the people. But with painting it might take months” says Max.
Max, first heard Indian classical music at the age of 12 and was quickly drawn towards it. He studied the jazz guitar at the University of Music Mainz with Marc-Oliver Klenkand Norbert Scholly and world music at the Academy of Music Carl Maria von Weber Dresden with Ralf Beutler and Stephan Bormann.
Max is an artiste who is looking to reinvent his music at all times. Having travelled across the globe, he is constantly broadening his musical horizons and exploring the unknown. In his Clan, Max is joined by musicians who share this vision of creating music.
“I have always felt that jazz and Indian music have an intense connection as they are both based on improvisation. It is the only form apart from jazz that has developed improvisation to a super high degree” explains Max about fusing the two sounds.
How did this whole idea of a German-Indo fusion jazz band come up?
“Max called me to form a band. I was very interested in what Max had learnt in Indian music. We as a band think that fusing different musical ideas together really works for us” explains Martin Standke, the drummer of the band.
The Bassist Markus Wach, shares his input about the band,
“The idea is to tell our stories not in the strict traditional sense. We just want to pick our instruments and play it in our style and tell a story in the manner you like. The main focus is to get the story right and in our own way.”
The entire band nods in unison as pianist and keyboardist Andrey Shabashev points out
“Though Indian classical music and jazz have different languages but still are very similar.”
(Pic: L-R Max, Martin, Andrey, Markus)
Max’s love affair with India is largely due to John McLaughlin’s band ‘Mahavishnu Orchestra’. John was one of the pioneers to fuse electric jazz and rock with Indian and Eastern influences. Max, who considers John as his idol, found inspiration after listening to the bands music and travelled to India to learn classical music under the renowned table and sitar maestro Nayan Ghosh and later with guitarist R. ‘Guitar’ Prasanna.
Having learnt music in India, Max is a big admirer of the Guru-Shishya philosophy. He still does not consider himself as an artiste who plays Indian classical music but he does count his blessings to have met people who readily taught him the art.
Being experimental by nature, the band was always open to fusing different classical styles of music. Martin admits that though his knowledge of Indian classical music was limited at that point, he was more than eager to infuse Max’s vision about fusing the sounds. Each member has a different genre of music to their liking. For instance, Martin is into electronic music, while Markus likes West Asian music.
“I am trying to create contemporary instrumental music that transforms elements of Indian classical music into Western music like European jazz” explains Max, adding that
“Meeting various Indian musicians and learning about their classical music helped us see a different tangent of this form of music and their openness to fuse with us was very inspiring.”
While the band basks in the fandom they now have, they are concerned about the way the state of affairs in the music world are progressing.
“Music has become a product to consume. People don’t like music that is complicated or takes time to understand” says Max with a visibly worried look.
That musicians nowadays don’t really dress up as performers when they go on stage, is a mark of disrespect to the very art they love and live a life off.
“When you chose to be a performing musician, you should think about every aspect of your performance. Not only playing the right notes, looking and talking the right way or just arriving on time but everything connected to it is important. That’s professionalism and respect for music.”