“I really want to get to a level where I can say I have a decent jazz vocabulary. I want to spend my time trying to get a hang of both the be-bop and the modern languages. I am also simultaneously developing my rock and blues playing. I would also love to get a hang of the acoustic styles like country pickin etc. My goal is to be able to play any style of music fluently and without any trepidation.”Amithav Gautam
I first came to know Amithav when I saw a YouTube post of him playing “Stompin’At the Savoy” that was posted to one of the select few Jazz Guitar Facebook groups I hang out on. I was immediately impressed with his sense of taste and swing and felt that he was a great candidate for a featured “Young-Un’s” interview, which he gladly accepted 🙂
In this interview, Amithav talks about his relationship to Jazz, his influences and “early” years on the instrument and what the Jazz scene is like in India. An informative and entertaining read from one so young! Enjoy 🙂
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The Young-Un’s series features young and promising Jazz Guitar players who may one day make a mark within the Jazz Guitar community.
JGL: Hi Amithav and thanks for taking the time to chat with Jazz Guitar Life. Let’s get to know you a little first if that is cool with you? How old are you? And where are you located?
AG: Thank you so much for doing this, sir. It’s a real honor and a privilege for me. I am 17 now and based in Chennai, South India.
JGL: How old were you when you first started playing guitar and according to a bio of yours that I read online: “…more recently, he has been exploring Jazz through the music of Kenny Burrell, Miles Davis, Grant Green, Lester Young, George Benson, Hank Mobley, Wes Montgomery, Art Blakey and many more…” I know that you play a variety of genres such as blues and rock, so how did you find your way into Jazz?
AG: I started playing the guitar when I was 11. It all began when I was first introduced to the sound of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Slowly, I began to explore the music of many of the blues and rock greats. I started enjoying jazz a couple of years ago when my music teacher at school, Vivek sir, introduced me to George Benson. That music really intrigued me and caught my attention. That’s perhaps my first ‘aha’ moment.
JGL: How disciplined has your musical education been? Have you taken formal lessons? Do you practice Jazz every day and what is your practice regimen like?
AG: My father has been my greatest musical influence. He is a music aficionado, and he introduced me to the beautiful world of the blues, rock, classical, and jazz. My music teacher, Vivek sir too has played an important part in my musical journey. He guided me in the world of rock and blues. But I can confidently say that what little jazz I play now is by and large selftaught. I try to practise everyday, most of the time working on standards or transcribing. I really enjoy transcriptions of other instruments like the saxophone or the trumpet. It really helps me broaden my vocabulary. I also dedicate a healthy amount of time for practising scales, arpeggios etc.
JGL: Which Jazz guitarists do you listen to on a regular basis?
AG: I admire the work of jazz guitarists from the 1950s and 1960s such as Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Kenny Burrell and Barney Kessel. I also love modern players such as Scofield, Pasqualle Grosso and Pat Metheny.
JGL: On a similar note – given your love for other styles of music – who else do you listen to apart from the Jazz Guitarists mentioned?
AG: I really love rock and blues artists as well. One of my all time favorite guitarists is Duane Allman. Besides, I am a big fan of Hank Mobley, Art Pepper, Eric Clapton, Derek Trucks, Johnny Winter, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins… there are so many artists whose music I love.
JGL: Do you compose as well? Have you had the chance to record your own music?
AG: I have just started writing my own music and really do look forward to releasing some of it in the future.
JGL: If this applies to you at this moment in time, what was your first professional gig?
AG: My first professional gig was the Mahindra Blues Festival, an annual event which has seen some of the finest musicians take the stage. I was invited by the house band, Soulmate, to play a couple of songs and it was a really amazing experience.
JGL: To date, what has been your most memorable experience(s)?
AG: My most memorable experience so far has to be my time at the Mahindra Blues festival as I got to meet some of my heroes, considered stalwarts of the Indian blues music scene. Just jamming with and talking to them was such an enriching and uplifting experience.
JGL: I’m not sure if you have given this much thought but do you see yourself continuing Jazz Guitar – or guitar in general – as a profession?
AG: I am definitely looking at pursuing a career in music as it is the only thing that I am passionate about.
JGL: What do you have planned for the near future?
AG: Studying music in depth is an option I am considering. But before that, I would like to get as much stage and studio experience as possible in the next two years in India. Apart from that I just want to practise and practise more.
JGL: If you wanted to be a musician as a career is it possible to do so where you currently live or would you need to move to another location and if so, where?
AG: There is a vibrant music scene in India especially in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. I have collaborated with some of the musicians there and hope to work more with them in the near future. Of course, the Indian film industry too has a rich musical presence.
JGL: Do you have any other interests that you would like to pursue other than Jazz Guitar or guitar in general?
AG: No, not really. Guitar is and always has been my number one passion.
JGL: I read that “In 2019, he was adjudged Best Guitarist at the All India Band-It competition, conducted by the Furtados School of Music.” That must have been very cool and obviously something that doesn’t happen every day. What does this title mean to you and does it help the possibility of you being a full time musician in the future?
AG: Winning a competition or getting any recognition only motivates me to work harder and validates my decision to choose a career in music.
JGL: What kind of advice – if any – has the older generation given you?
AG: I have been really fortunate to connect with musicians of a high caliber such as Ehsaan Noorani (one of India’s top music composers), Keith Peters, a celebrated bassist, and Rudy Wallang, one of India’s finest blues guitarists. They have shown me the way and constantly support and encourage me, offer important life lessons, which have been vital in shaping me.
JGL: Speaking of the older generation, how do your parents accept your love for music and the guitar? Is there any cultural/geographic bias that may hinder your wanting to be a professional musician at some point in your life?
AG: No. On the contrary, my parents have been my biggest supporters and have encouraged me at every step in my choice of career.
JGL: What is your daily life like?
AG: Most days I am off to school in the early part of the day. After school, I spend most of my time practising the guitar. I spend at least an hour everyday listening to music with my father, trying to absorb what I hear.
JGL: Is there a strong music/Jazz scene where you live? And are there any Jazz Guitar players from your area that you would recommend we check out?
AG: The jazz scene in India is still developing, and there are some really great musicians playing today. My favorite musicians are from Delhi. I am a big fan of The Revisit Project, a band that plays mostly funk and soul. The band members are in fact masters of jazz as well. I really love the saxophone player Abhay Sharma and the piano player Rythem Bansal. Another jazz guitarist from Delhi whom I look up to is Siddharth Gautam. I frequently jam with a legendary bassist, Keith Peters. He is a famous sessions player who has worked with Oscar and Grammy winning composer, A.R Rahman. He is also a legend in the jazz world. He has played for John Beasly on his Thelonious Monk Tribute act. I am really grateful to him for jamming with me. Another artist with whom I got the opportunity to perform with is the singer Radha Thomas, who in fact started her jazz career in America singing with musicians such as Ryo Kawasaki. There are so many artists who are my inspiration.
JGL: On YouTube, you have a large number of video clips which I’m sure help get the word out about you as well as providing a visual for new fans. What other ways are you promoting yourself?
AG: I am not doing much promotion wise but have noticed a rise in the followers on my Instagram and Facebook profiles. I prefer to build my pages organically.
JGL: What would you like to work on guitar wise in the years to come?
AG: I really want to get to a level where I can say I have a decent jazz vocabulary. I want to spend my time trying to get a hang of both the be-bop and the modern languages. I am also simultaneously developing my rock and blues playing. I would also love to get a hang of the acoustic styles like country pickin etc. My goal is to be able to play any style of music fluently and without any trepidation.
JGL: In your videos I have noticed that you have used a variety of guitars, what kind of gear are you using regularly and what would be your dream set-up?
AG: For jazz I have a hollow body Ibanez guitar which I really love. I don’t use any pedals when it comes to jazz and I plug into any decent clean tube amp I can find. In the rock and blues world I use a PRS SE guitar along with a Fender Strat. At the moment all I do is try to get the amp break up a little and then boost it with a tube screamer. It’s very basic as of now. Jazz wise I think my dream set up would be a Gibson L-5 plugged into a Roland jazz Chorus amp.
JGL: Do you have any advice for young musicians that you would like to share?
AG: I really don’t think I have reached any level of musicianship to be giving advice but I think one should just do whatever they want to do diligently and sincerely and have fun at the end of the day.
JGL: Thank you Amithav for taking the time to respond to these questions for Jazz Guitar Life. I look forward to following your career in the months and years ahead and wish you nothing but the best on whatever road you travel!
AG: Thank you so much sir for thinking that I was worthy of being interviewed.
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