Cadenza sure know how to have fun. Anyone familiar with Nepal’s first consistent jazz band will testify to the group’s ability to concoct the sublime out of the ordinary. It is their energy that has conceived a jazz scene in Kathmandu and given Nepalis opportunity to be within touching distance of greats like Trilok Gurtu and Ari Hoenig.
But besides organising international jazz festivals and performing live every weekend, Cadenza have also, once in a while, recorded albums that instantly become collectors’ items. Nine years after their last album, the exceptional Groove for Shiva, the band has finally released another – Back to the Roots.
Opening the proceedings is Namaste , a song that evokes the chaos and futility that has come to resemble Kathmandu. Momo Funk is another jocular, upbeat treatment of our national staple. The band channels some Purbeli folk in Hey Saili, calling its heroine to forget the toils of Arabia for the oasis of home. Running at 8 minutes, Aisha’s Dream is drummer and bandleader Navin Chettri’s tribute to his daughter – I’m in love, he declares.
Long time listeners will notice the band goes back to old material on Nepali Happy and Hip Break. The original versions were lively pieces in an earlier album, but the band has chosen a sleeker sound in the current renditions. As the twin saxophones prompt each other, the album gains a balanced feel.
For those who were present at 2013’s Jazzmandu concert in Patan, Deusi Bhailo will bring back memories. Others will have to simply console themselves, Dasain-Tihar being a world away from foggy February mornings. The band skips from Deusi to Chyangba hoi Chyangba with consummate ease. Improvisation is everyone’s middle name.
The remaining two tracks are Baja Gaja at number 5 and its spaced out reprise as closing piece. Trust Cadenza to underscore their point, twice, with exuberance as they go from Fela Kuti to bhajan mode and back at the drop of a hat.
Part Afrobeat, part Nepali, the album is a return to material the band is most comfortable with. Gig-goers may say most of the stuff on it has been played live at concerts over the years, but the plus side is the band’s live verve permeates this studio outing with ease.
The album is available on CDs at leading music stores in Kathmandu and for fans around the world, the band plans to release it on major online audio outlets in the coming month. Get your copy and dance with abandon.
Back to the roots by Cadenza Collective, 2014
CDs available at Nepa Music Records, Thamel, (01)4382460
Navin Chettri on drums and vocals
Pravin Chettri on saxophone and keyboards Samir Chettri on bass and vocals
Rajat Rai on guitar and vocals
Inap Raj Shrestha on saxophone and vocals