Indo-Jazz Fusions was an unusual performing group, even in the myriad musical languages of the mid-'60s. Jazz and classical fusions such as Third Stream had been around since the '50s, and sounds of jazz-rock fusion were emanating from various clubs and recordings on both sides of the Atlantic by the mid- to late '60s. But Indo-Jazz Fusions' merging of Indian music and jazz was unique. The group emerged more or less by accident when John Mayer, a Calcutta-born violinist who'd been a member of both the London Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic orchestras, provided a piece on one day's notice to EMI for a recording project. The work so impressed the producer involved, that he brought it and Mayer to the attention of Ahmet Ertegun, the founder and president of Atlantic Records. Ertegun liked what he'd heard and approached Mayer about six months later, suggesting that he seriously consider writing material for an entire album that would merge jazz and Indian sounds. Mayer already had a quintet in place with which he tried out ideas, consisting of sitar, tabla, tambura, flute, with himself on violin and harpsichord. It was Ertegun's idea to put this group alongside a jazz quintet featuring Joe Harriott on alto sax. The music was written by Mayer in a month and recorded in two days, and the album Indo-Jazz Fusions was released in America and England in 1966. The debut release was a success, and out of it the group, originally known officially as the Joe Harriott and John Mayer Double Quintet but always referred to as "Indo-Jazz Fusions", was born. They had a busy performing career until Harriott's death in 1973, when Mayer decided to disband the group. In the seven years between those events, Indo-Jazz Fusions dazzled audiences across Europe and frustrated a surprisingly large percentage of jazz enthusiasts and players, who couldn't accept or adapt to the new sound that they generated. Even Harriott wasn't an ideal collaborator, Mayer later observed, due to his relatively advanced age and limited ability to adapt to the needs of Indian music. Mayer's music was built on the beat and texture of ragas and related Hindustani musical forms, merged with jazz elements, particularly in the percussion. They recorded two LPs, Indo-Jazz Fusions 1 and 2, both of which have lately been reissued on CD. In 1995, Mayer reactivated the group, which has recorded two new albums, Asian Airs and Ragatal. Their current membership is younger than the original group's lineup (except for Mayer himself, of course), including Andy Bratt (drums), Anna Brookes (saxophone), Chris Featonby (bass), Dave Smith (trumpet), James McDowell (flute), Jonathan Mayer (sitar), Esmail Sheikh (tabla), Steve Tromans (piano), and Richard Young (percussion). A new group of musicians in the band in 1999, included Harjinder Matharu (tabla), Simon Colam (piano), and David Foster (bass).
Share this page