On Monday, acclaimed jazz musician Carlton Kitto passed away in Kolkata after a prolonged illness. He was 84 when he died. He is one of the most influential jazz musician in India.
Kolkata is as synonymous with the jaunty tunes of the guitar and saxophone as it with Indian sweets. So it is only befitting that Carlton Kitto, one of the finest jazz musicians in the world, called Kolkata his home.
Kitto was a jazz and classical guitar teacher in his old age at the Calcutta School of Music.
Kitto was born in Bangalore where he started working in the railways in his early days. Later he started his music career in Chennai in 1960’s and then he moved to Kolkata in 1973, and became a part of the band, Jazz Ensemble in Moulin Rogue, an upscale restaurant in Park Street. After two years, he started playing in another restaurant named, Mocambo, and subsequently in other places in Kolkata.
He listed Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby as some of his early musical influences. Kitto collaborated with Jazz legends like Sonny Rollins, Chico Freeman, Charlie Byrd and Indian musicians like Pandit Ravi Shankar and Louiz Banks. Ravi Shankar too, was happy to collaborate with him. The Bebop jazz guitarist had also played for Queen Elizabeth.
Kitto was at the peak of his career till 1977, when West Bengal’s Left Front government imposed a hefty tax on the bills of restaurants and nightclubs which hich had until then patronised jazz bands and artists. “People refused to pay up. Fights started breaking out. The owners had no option. They had to ask us to leave,” Kitto said earlier.
Dickoo Nowroji, President of Calcutta School Of Music said that the school plans to do a commemorative program next month as a tribute to Kitto, who spent the last days of his life in a dingy apartment in Alimuddin Street.
MD of 101India.com Cyrus Oshidar who made the following documentary RIP Carlton Kitto: The Last of Kolkata’s Jazz Legends about the jazz icon, condoled his death on Facebook.
“Today we say goodbye to one of the last jazz legends of our country.A#RIPCarltonKitto.”
A documentary on the musician that explores last days of his life, published on 25th November, 2016
It is sad that someone of his musical ability was relegated to a small room in the back streets of Kolkata. But Carlton always stayed true to his musical roots and to Jazz. He truly is a symbol of an age gone by and will remain a legend in the annals of Indian Jazz.