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The Empress of Park Street

Detail from front cover of Explorations album.

Gimme Music by Pam Crain by tajmahalfoxtrot1

pam_0001 Pam Crain, who passed away on Aug 14, was one of the finest jazz musicians India has produced.  On stage and off, she displayed the generosity that is such an essential characteristic of jazz. Here’s what the writer and filmmaker Ruchir Joshi said on his Facbeook page: “Just heard Pam Crain moved on down the line. RIP Pam. Used to be awed watching her sing. Then, somehow got to know her and [her husband] Don [Saigal] when I was a teenager and I’d go to their house near the St.Xavier’s back gate [in Calcutta] and she’d lend me precious albums without any questions. “Just bring it back when you’re finished listening. Don’t add to the scratches.” Some unknown kid walking away with her rare jazz vinyl and that’s all she ever said to me.

The adman and musician Stanley Pinto had these recollections about the diva:

“In 1961 I was playing in a band at the Hotel Nataraj on Marine Drive, Bombay. One night, a European couple sitting at the far end perked up when we played a jazz standard, clapped, and started sending us one request after another for jazz ballads and songs. more…

The Man With the Golden Guitar

A version of this article first appeared in Time Out Mumbai.

In 2004, in a review of an album called Integration, the Guardian declared, “Of all the attempts to bring together jazz and Indian music, this must be one of the most successful…[The tunes] strike a perfect balance between the two idioms, and there is none of that phoney ‘Eastern’ flavouring, featuring sitars and such like…the music swings in a completely natural way.”

The album under consideration had actually been released 35 years earlier, but had been reissued after a fortunate series of events – bringing Bombay-born guitar player Amancio D’Silva back into the spotlight eight years after he’d passed away.
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