Madhav Chari

I don’t know what to say here. This is going to be rambling, but short, if that makes sense.

I met Madhav Chari in 2004, shortly after moving to Chennai from New York. For some reason, he took a strong liking to me and stayed in touch. He attended our wedding, the first birthday do of our son, and played a couple of times at my workplace, and visited a few times. I did not make the same effort, despite, or maybe because of, my awe of him.

I have written about him before: here and here (2006) and here (2010). Each of those was in response to a performance or recording of his. At some point, I stopped blogging, but I didn’t stop going to his concerts. He unfailingly informed me of upcoming events. Typically these were free; sometimes passes were required, and he said, if there was any issue with entering, just call him, his phone would be on. That is, before the show started. He had zero tolerance for mobile phones ringing during the show.

Actually, he had zero tolerance for many things. He was a purist, but in a good sense. It is strange to think of someone sitting in Chennai trying to perfect an idealization of New York jazz, but that’s who he was. He was extremely interested in and knowledgeable about Indian music, and included a mridangam player in one of his lec-dems (Palghat Raghu if I remember right), but the music came first.

My blogging activity decreased greatly a couple of years ago, otherwise there would have been more posts about him. Such as his trio concert this May, with Naveen Kumar (bass) and Jeoraj George (drums) — the same trio I blogged about in 2010, but while at that time he regarded them as promising apprentices, this time he loudly proclaimed that nobody else in India could hold a candle to them. He was right. He said that that day’s concert would give us the finest, most sophisticated, most uncompromising New-York-style jazz. It did.

Chatting with him around that time, he mentioned some health issues relating to some autoimmune condition; I had no idea that it would recur, require hospitalisation, and be fatal. He had not visited our current home (he had been to the previous one a few times), and said he would come over soon. I said sure, but never concretised the invitation: I figured we’d be around. Now he isn’t.

He played at my workplace in 2005. I have kept that recording zealously; today, after some thought, I’ve decided to upload it. A solo piano performance, on a digital piano (mine), that he proclaimed himself happy with: and knowing his fastidious and blunt nature, I knew I had made a good purchase. Enjoy.

[Please excuse the weird tagging that suggests that I am the artist. I couldn’t figure out how to convince soundcloud to do otherwise, except by creating a fake account in his name, which obviously wasn’t on the cards.]