Swinging rhythms from Italy, Calcutta 1933

This note is from 2011, when I started publishing outtakes from my book, Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay's Jazz Age:

Another week, another set of photos from the relative of a pioneering jazz musician in India and another round of frustration at not having any information to share.

Recently, I received mail from the grandson of John Abriani, an Italian musician who performed in Calcutta between 1932 and 1934. But precious little has come up about Abriani in my research.

Until Riccardo Fantin’s mail, my only familiarity with Abriani was a geeky discussion in a collectors’ journal about whether the Italian musician had actually made any recordings in India.

Though he’s said to have, no one actually seems to have seen these treasures. A couple of years ago, browsing through a music store in Berlin, I did find tracks that Abriani had recorded – but these were tunes he’d cut in Berlin, one in 1928 and the other in 1939.

Riccado says that his grandfather, a violinist, was born in the town of Lusiana in Italy’s Vicenza province on May 15, 1898.  Between 1925-1932, John Abriani and his brother Felice, who played banjo and violin, led an orchestra that played regular gigs in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland.

“In 1934, John Abriani returned from India, and continued his career as an active performer, and recording artist, throughout Europe for the remainder of the decade,” Riccardo said. “In the 1940s, he was permanently settled in his native Italy, where his musical presence slowly diminished over the following decades.”

John Abriani died in Milan in 1960, but his memory was revived not so long ago by my friend Atul Sabharwal in a short titled Abriani's Six.

Here's one of the tracks that Abriani recorded for the Twin record label while in India: Alexander's Ragtime Band. The flip side was My Silent Love, which I still haven't located. These sides were recorded in Calcutta in 1933.

Alexander's Ragtime Band.

Bonus: According Wolfgang Kastenhuber, a traditional Indian group was in the studio at the same time. So they made this record below just for fun that got recorded on the flip side of Three's a Crowd. It was not commercially released this way, of course.

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