Broken Ninths mend it on stage with their classic jazz interpretations


Broken Ninths mend it on stage with their classic jazz interpretations
The Broken Ninths: Tom Jarvis, Aryan Oberoi, Suryansh Loya with their music teacher and pianist Simon Bowler

How a bunch of Dubai College students are reviving jazz classics from the 50s and 60s

By Michael Gomes

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Published: Thu 27 Jun 2019, 5:18 PM

Last updated: Mon 1 Jul 2019, 8:25 PM

Connoisseurs of jazz must surely be familiar with the music of American jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderly or Antonio Carlos Jobim. And if you thought the genre was only popular among a certain 'mature' class of music lovers, a bunch of young musicians from Dubai College are proving how their passion for the genre is keeping the flag of this 'not-so-popular' style of music flying high while attracting a whole new young audience to it. 
Hailed by their school's headmaster as an "incredible and enterprising group of talented musicians", the boys are making a difference to the city's music landscape not only with their performances but also their altruistic efforts. 
The trio, who go by the name of Broken Ninths, not only astound you with their deep knowledge of jazz, but also impresses with their extempore take on jazz standards, as they did when they played a concert in the school's SMF Music Centre hall last Monday.
It doesn't matter whether you're a fan of pop, rock or EDM, a listen to these young messengers of jazz, will have you hooked to the genre. 
For a bunch of kids, whose collective ages may not total more than 50, they possess amazing  dexterity that belie their ages. Saxophonist Tom Jarvis, 17, bass guitarist Suryansh Loya, 17 and drummer Aryan Oberoi, 18 are accomplished performers who have the ability to perhaps give experienced jazz musicians a run for their money. The Broken Ninths trio is accompanied by their music teacher and guide Simon Bowler on the piano.
The beginning
So what fired the passion for jazz in this talented bunch?  "It all started during a band rehearsal in school," explained an enthusiastic Suryansh.
"We were preparing for a big concert, but we got bored due to the long, tedious practice sessions. So, one day, we started messing around on our instruments. First we jammed on basic tracks like Seven Nation Army, a while later, we started experimenting with some jazz scores. Soon we realised that we were enjoying it, even with our limited musical abilities. 
"During one such  jam session, our music teacher heard us, he liked what we were doing and joined us. Eventually, we asked him to teach us jazz and ever since then, we have been deeply involved with the genre. Up until now, we've played over 25 gigs all over Dubai - in restaurants, school concerts and private events," he added.  
For saxophonist Tom, it was the freedom to express himself musically that attracted him to the genre. "I was fascinated by the sound of jazz, especially the music of big bands like Duke Ellington Orchestra, John Coltrane etc. For a musician, jazz offers a lot of freedom. You can call it musician's music," said Tom. 
"I started off by playing classical music when I was about 6 years old, but I've been hooked to jazz ever since I turned 14 or15," he added. 
Most his classmates are not jazz aficionados, and they often scoff at him, for his choice of music. "My peers are always making fun of us because they are mostly into pop, EDM and chart music. But that doesn't worry us a bit, we enjoy our music and that's what matters most for us," said Tom, who counts greats like Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderly, Sonny Rollins and modern players such as Kenny Gareth among his influences.
Bass guitarist Suryansh, who can play walk lines and swing jazz with the ease of a pro on his four-stringed Squire jazz bass, started his journey into music at the age of eight. He is a trained classical guitarist. His journey into the world of big band music happened by chance. The school's jazz band was looking out for a bass guitarist and their music teacher suggested that Suryansh give it a shot. With no experience in jazz, leave alone playing the bass guitar, the young lad accepted the offer.  "I wholeheartedly took up the challenge, and once I joined the band, my interest and love for jazz grew exponentially and I've enjoyed the genre ever since then," said Suryansh, who has also composed a jazz song titled, I Can't Get Started
Though he listens mostly to jazz bassists like Paul Chambers and Charlie Mingus, he does not restrict himself to one genre. "I also listen to funk, rock and other modern songs," he said, adding that he also gets inspired by other styles of music.
Drummer Aryan had the advantage of tuning up to jazz from a very young age. "My dad would always play jazz records at home. I was very young hence I didn't really like the genre, not as much as I do now. I got attracted to jazz about three years back. I like the freedom it offers," said Aryan.
Misconception about jazz
The drummer feels that there is a lot of misconception being spread about jazz, which he feels, is one of the main reasons it has fewer fans among youngsters. "There's a general misconception that jazz is a serious genre, meant for an older audience, but that's not true.  It's fun listening to live jazz, all our friends enjoy our concerts. It's a wonderful experience listening to a band live than on a stereo," he added.
Tom could not agree more. "Our peers come in large numbers to support us. They may not necessarily understand the music, nevertheless they enjoy our performances," he said.
It takes a lot to be a jazz musician - discipline and practicing for hours on end. So how do they manage to make the time for that? "For me it not a chore, it's fun practicing for a couple of hours a day and I enjoy it," said Aryan.
And for Tom it's a de-stresser. "It helps me relax. Whenever I pick up the saxophone it relieves me and helps me unwind."  
All three musicians would like to be connected with music after they complete their education. "I would love to take up music as a career. It's great to be paid for something you love doing, and if that doesn't work out I'll be working but still be playing as much as I can," said Tom. 
While Suryansh who has already thought of an alternative career said, "I'd  love to play music for a living, but if it doesn't work, I'll be an economist. But I'll never give up music." 
Jazz musicians are like sponges
According to Dubai College music teacher Simon Bowler, unlike classical music, jazz has no boundaries and offers freedom of expression. "A jazz  musician has the freedom to play within a framework. No two compositions sound the same. Each artiste interprets the song in his own way, adding his own emotion and vibe to the number. Jazz musicians are like sponges, they have this unique ability to pick up tunes very fast and they also have the greatest pair of ears," Simon said.
Why headmaster Mike Lambertis is proud of his boys
"They are an incredibly talented bunch of musicians, not only that, they've done the most enterprising thing done by any student this year. We're building a school in Nepal in collaboration with United World Schools for kids living below the poverty line. The Broken Ninths decided to host extra concerts to raise funds for the school. Music is an important part of their studies. Once the kids complete their studies and get into jobs, they can use their musical talents during their spare time and play in jazz clubs or concerts," said Lambertis.
When Simon Bowler the teacher became a pupil
"During my earlier stint with Dubai College, I was looking to add some jazz to my repertoire. I heard the trio and got interested in jamming with them. We used to work on classics like Autumn Leaves, and other jazz tones. I had a great time playing with them. Then I took a break for a year. But when I rejoined Dubai College and played with the trio again, I was in for a shock. I was literally terrified to perform with them, these boys had advanced so far ahead. In fact, I became their pupil and started learning from them," Simon said. 

Aryan Oberoi likes the freedom of expression that jazz music offers
Aryan Oberoi likes the freedom of expression that jazz music offers
Suryansh Loya has composed his own jazz track
Suryansh Loya has composed his own jazz track
Tom Jarvis is influenced by the likes of John Coltrane and Kenny Gareth
Tom Jarvis is influenced by the likes of John Coltrane and Kenny Gareth
Headmaster Mike Lambertis
Headmaster Mike Lambertis
Teacher Simon Bowler
Teacher Simon Bowler

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