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Sunil Sampat with his most prized record
You may own the rarest of rare jazz records, but you aren’t half as lucky as Sunil Sampat. The gentleman was present at the launch of John Coltrane’s ‘Love Supreme’ at Birdland in 1964. Can it possibly get better?
For those who don’t know, Sunil Sampat is a distinguished jazz aficionado. He has been the Contributing Editor of Rolling Stone magazine for over a decade. His canonical piece on 100 Greatest Jazz Recordings – a primer for those who are new to the genre.
Sunil Sampat with a part of his collection
Sunil owns 9000 records – shellac and vinyl, 95% of which, he says in an unwavering tone, is jazz. John Coltrane continues to be his favourite jazz artist to this day.
“Trane performed Love Supreme twice on the same night at Birdland Jazz Club in New York. After his solo performance, he wished to see his band perform. Now, I was seated at a table near the stage, so he casually asked if he could join me. And then we spoke at length! Someday I will cover that chat in an article”, Sunil revealed.
Copy of Lambert, Hendricks and Bavan at Newport ’63 autographed by Yolande Bavan
His close encounters with the jazz kind are innumerable. As an engineering student in the USA, he met, heard and interviewed some of the greatest names in jazz – Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and of course, John Coltrane amongst others.
Sunil with Dizzy Gillespie after the latter’s performance in Rang Bhavan, 1985
“Dizzy”, he reminisces, “was a wonderful human being. After a 26-hour flight from Detroit to Bombay, followed by a harrowing time at the airport, and then a performance in Rang Bhavan, he actually took time out to autograph 21 of his albums I owned.”
His wife, Manju Sampat, is also a record collector. “I was concerned that I will be in trouble if the person I marry doesn’t like jazz. But my worries were put to rest after I learned that Manju is also a Ella Fitzgerald fan. Would you believe that I had 50 albums and she had 25 of Ella’s at the time, and there was no overlap! We are truly made for each other!” he says coyly.
Sunil was instrumental in forming Jazz India that organised jazz festivals in the island city. He regularly paired with the legendary cartoonist Mario Miranda to cover several editions of Jazz YATRA. Today, he is on the NCPA Jazz Advisory Committee.
“I am absolutely staggered by the number of young people in India who have started playing mainstream jazz in the last 4 years. So I feel confident of its future.” He maintains a jazz band, Billee On a Holiday – an esoteric ensemble of instrumentalists aged 17-45 years.
Prized records: John Coltrane’s Love Supreme, Dizzy Gillespie’s Dizzy Gillespie & The Double Six of Paris
A few titles from his original pressings collection:
Current hi-fi setup: Garrard 100 Zero S