Shreyas Iyengar’s Pandemic Inspired Jazz Album ‘Tough Times’ Is A Contemplative Gem

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While a whole lot of working professionals were attempting to cope with the pandemic last year, musicians saw this as an opportunity to hone their skills, compose and release superior, polished works of art. Pune-based multi-instrumentalist Shreyas Iyengar was assertive about the kind of music he was gonna put together in 2020. Being an accomplished drummer and guitarist for more than 15 years, Shreyas leaned towards the saxophone last year to combine it with drums, keys, guitars, flute on his debut album ‘Tough Times‘, an acutely contemplative 8-track modern jazz album through and through.

‘Tough Times’ manifests vulnerable moments of the common people in our country through Iyengar’s powerful instrumental ballads. Shreyas believes that the brunt of the pandemic was carried by those who are less fortunate than us and on the contrary, we, who are part of the much-developed section of the society were only at the periphery of the tough times, at the worst. This album serves as an anecdote to hardships and inefficacious behavior of the human race interspersed with moments of triumph.

The record starts off with ‘Homage‘, a modern jazz track with mellow saxophone, which pays a tribute to all the warriors who have struggled through the inevitable phase. ‘Quarrel times‘, a heavily bass-inflected song with the saxophone entering towards the 2nd half, makes it an orchestral-themed instrumental.

Death March‘ begins with a downcast sax solo by Iyengar before the poignant classical guitar by Jayant Sanskrityayana enters, eventually accentuated by Pallavi Seth’s backing opera-styled vocals. ‘Trouble in the Orient‘ is a tale of privation in the east that features a similar sax intro as Death March but with subtle bass and resonant drumming. ‘Never leaving Home again‘ was officially released on the 10th of December and features the flautist Siya Ragade from pop-soul band ‘Easy Wanderlings’ and upright bass, obviously infused with Iyengar’s saxophone which is predominantly present in each track. ‘Drum Solo’ and the 2 part finale “Tough Times 1& 2′ for this jazz escapade reflects Shreyas’s forte in keys, sax, guitatrs & drums.

This might be the multi-instrumentalist’s debut album, but he has been a staple in the scene for quite long, having worked for a bunch of documentaries, ad films and feature films. His latest collaboration was with Luke Kenny & Alok Kulkarni for a song ‘Rubaiyat’, was a part of an initiative ‘No.1 Yaari Jampad’ by Hungama music’s Artist Aloud. Shreyas has also operated with Kailash Kher and toured with jazz artists – Saskia Laroo a.k.a ‘Lady Miles Davis’ and Xander Naylor as a drummer. In Iyengar’s words, ‘Tough Times’ is basically his way of documenting this time (the pandemic) from the point-of-view of a (somewhat unaffected but still emotionally tuned in) observer and realizing that tough times don’t last, but they do keep coming back (especially with the looming crisis that is climate change). The album was released on all the major streaming platforms on 18th February.