ORIGIN early 17th cent.: via French from Italian gazzetta, originally gazeta de la novità (because the news-sheet sold for a gazeta, a Venetian coin of small value)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Sanga Equation

John Xavier Paul, Mahesh Somashekhar, Lena Seikaly, Ethan Foote

With this blogpost, I'm taking a bit of a detour away from my usual subjects to write about music. The story of the Sanga Equation's most recent performance must be told!

First, a bit of history.The Sanga Equation was formed in early summer 2005 when John Xavier Paul, on the lam after a stint with an AU-based indie rock group, asked several local DC musicians, including now-rising jazz vocalist Lena Seikaly, to form a small, experimental combo with the following line-up: pianist, vocalist, bassist, drummer. The idea was to create an original sound that was steeped in the tradition of jazz innovation, and with that as a foundation, do some experimenting. Enthusiam ensued: Lena signed on, Ted Hamilton would do drums, and a bassist was found. The group practiced, played a few gigs in the DC area, but after initially getting things off to a brilliant start, John was scheduled to leave for France for his Masters degree while Lena remained in the DC area to finish her BFA and continue her ascent to jazz greatness... so the group was "on hold." John Xavier, however, was so excited about what the group had accomplished in such a short time that, during his flight to Paris in October 2005, he began to plan a tour for Sanga in France the following summer. Lena was easily persuaded, Ted signed on immediately for the adventure, and bass prodigy Ethan Foote was recruited to complete the equation. And they were off. The tour was a great success. In keeping with French tradition, France adored the Sanga Equation. Since then, the group has been seasonal, but everytime they get together, everytime they perform, there is a groove and an excitement that just won't go away.

The halllmark of the Sanga Equation is originality, freshness, and that je ne sais quoi that is sparked when creative spirits come together. Although many people enjoy being entertained with songs they know or are familiar with, there are those who are turned on by funkiness and innovation, and a little experimentation. The set list (see below) from Friday night's gig is proof that the Sanga Equation does all of the above. Eight of the 18 tunes performed were originals composed by members of the group: four by Ethan, three by John Xavier, and one by Lena. And in this latest line-up, with newcomer drummer Mahesh Somashekhar intertwining energy and sensitivity, the beat goes on. The jazz tunes they performed were not standards, they were pieces created by innovators in the field: Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner, Charles Mingus, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock.... along with a tune by the eclectic French singer-songwriter and poet Serge Gainsbourg. The arrangements were fresh and inventive, and the communication and pleasure among the musicians was palpable. The crowd at this private gathering was unanimous: the Sanga Equation exudes verve, freshness, outrageousness, energy, pizazz, innovation... and in jazz parlance, they were tight. Many of us are hoping that we'll see and hear more of them in the months to come. Some of us pray for a recording. Affaire à suivre...

Set 1
Speak No Evil - Wayne Shorter - instrumental
Reincarnation of a Love Bird - Charles Mingus - instrumental
Les Valseuses - Ethan Foote
Valse Encore - Ethan Foote
Ces Petits Riens - Serge Gainsbourg
Tune Up - Miles Davis
Interplay - Bill Evans - instrumental
Litha - Chick Corea
What the Paper Says - John Xavier Paul

Set 2
Wall to Wall - Herbie Hancock - instrumental
Bring your Handkerchief - John Xavier Paul
Pray to the WInd - John Xavier Paul
Lost in Thought - Ethan Foote
Inception - McCoy Tyner - instrumental
Song of Youth - Ethan Foote -instrumental
Here Again - Lena Seikaly
La Fiesta - Chick Corea
Nica's Dream - Horace Silver