When Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond took time out for tips from Indian musicians during their 1958 State Department tour, the exchange worked both ways. The Brubeck Quartet’s tour was an important component of the cultural diplomacy the United States practiced during the Cold War. Among other inspirations Brubeck picked up on the international road more than half a century ago was the 9/8 Turkish rhythm that became the basis for his “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” Desmond had long been working into his improvisations the minor feeling of near- and middle-eastern music, as—most famously— in “Le Souk” on the Jazz Goes To College album. Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo” and Desmond’s “Take Five” had yet to be written when the picture on the left was taken, but the Brubeck group left impressions in India and Pakistan that helped insinuate modern jazz into the cultures of those countries. Able to not only absorb from other musics but also contribute to them, jazz has become more and more natural to musicians there, as have Indo-Paki scales, ragas and quarter tones to western musicians.
With improvisation common to the music of both cultures, it may have been inevitable that something like the Sachal Studios Orchestra would develop. Founded by a businessman and philanthropist named Izzat Majeed, Sachal Studos in Lahore provides some of Pakistan’s most talented musicians a place to pursue their craft. Its current project is an album called Sachal Jazz: Interpretations of Jazz Standards & Bossa Nova, due out in May. According to an advance track list, it opens with “Take Five.” Here is the promotional video. The soloists are Balu Khan, tabla; Nafees Khan, sitar; and Tanveer Hussain, guitar. The conductor is Riaz Hussain. The string arrangement may not be long on innovation, but it follows the dictum drummer Joe Morello gave Brubeck before they made the original recording, “Keep that vamp going.”