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Jazz King

Rocky is the man who flagged off the jazz scene in Pune

Woodshedding at Jazz GardenIf you thought there's not much jazz in Pune, all that can be said is "man, you're still living in the past". Cut to June '97. Homi Bhatena of the Jazz Garden fame got this bright idea of putting live acts together. And Rocky Vaz was born again. Literally. Rocky picked up his trumpet after a gap 20 years. He says, "I practised hard like mad for months, thanks to my dear wife Eileen and good friend Jehangir." He got his chops straight and emthralled all those jazzy folks. Yes he did. Just like Satchmo. Sparks flew, and put Pune back on the groovy path to jazzdom.

Doin' a Louis ArmstrongFor a man who flagged off the jazz scene in Pune, Rocky is a real down to earth person. Starting out on violin and keyboards at a very young age under his father, he soon started blowing horn in an all-wind instrument in his school (St. Vincent High School) band. Playing trumpet in big brother John's band in 1961, Rocky soon started his own thing - the Vaz Combo, a sextet with trumpet, tenor sax, double bass, piano, drums and guitar. The Combo rolled out the ever greens like Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White and Besame Mucho at the Rajendra Singhji Institute (RSI).

Rocky, who always considered music more as a hobby than a profession, got married in 1975, took up a job and dropped the horn. But for now, his wife Eileen saved the day and got him back to groove. Rocky now heads the quartet Temptations, with a double bass, keyboards and his son Michael on drums. And very recently Rocky started playing in a new outfit High Society with members of other Pune bands Karma, Catch 22 coming together.

Mainly doing Dixieland - Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, Rocky says he's not much into the later progressive kind. "But I can do pops, and I don't mind playing with anybody, anything as long as I enjoy doing it," says Rocky with a twinkle in his eye.

And when not holding his trumpet, Rocky just takes off for fishing with his family or goes for a hike or may be just plain cooking."Life is an adventure, enjoy it," he says.

So, happily we can say that jazz in Pune is in good hands. Jazz is here to stay alive and kickin'. What Rocky?

Text and Photographs by Harikrishna


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