Sandeep Chowta is hosting the jazz guitar legend for a second time, live in concert, tonight.
How did the concert come about?
Well, it’s been some time now, since I performed with my Electric Band. When I realised I was doing an Asia tour, there was no way I was not coming to India! I just needed my dear friend, Sandeep Chowta, to make it happen and like always, he made it happen.
Sandeep Chowta has brought down many great jazz musicians as part of the Sandeep Chowta Project. How did you become a part of his vision?
I was introduced to Sandy by the great bass player, Bunny Brunel. Bunny was arranging a song for Sandeep and it was on Sandeep’s request that I did a session on the project. Sandy had told Bunny that he was a big fan of mine. Subsequently we did a tour with Bunny Mitch Forman and Virgil Donati in 2006. After that, I came back again in 2007 and played on three songs on Sandy’s magnum opus record, Matters Of The Heart, which is soon to be released.
Had you heard much of Chowta’s music before you collaborated with him on Matters Of The Heart?
No, but I did hear a lot of his music after I got to know him. And now, he has become a dear friend, so the collaboration goes way beyond the music. We have a lot of fun making great music together. I enjoy the way he works. We get together and jam, and hone in on themes and melodies through improvisation. I have played on three songs on the record, including one with Gary Willis, Scott Kinsey and Kirk Covington of Tribal Tech.
Are collaborations an important aspect of jazz music?
Collaborations are important in any type of music. One of my favourite collaborations was with one of the best classical guitar players from Italy, Maurizio Colonn. Bringing the worlds of classical and jazz together was truly special. His sense of form and melody was inspirational to me.
There isn’t a flourishing jazz scene in India. How do you think that can be changed?
You need to have us come on a regular basis for all the flourishing to happen! But I think Sandeep is making headway against all odds to make things happen in your country. It’s a matter of time now.
Your collaboration with Chick Corea is still talked about amongst your fans. What is your favourite memory of being a part of the Chick Corea Elekrtic Band?
Working with Chick was like a dream come true for me. He is a great master and I learned all I needed to know about music, performance, positive attitude, being true to the art of music from him.
My favourite memory of working with him was, in fact, my audition for his band. It was Labour Day in October, 1986. I had two days to learn the music. The vague instructions were, ‘Just learn a couple of Corea standards, listen to the new Elektric Band album and learn the solo sections. Chick just wants to hear if you improvise well’.
I learned the melody for Rumble and was as ready as I would ever be. When I auditioned, I played like there was no tomorrow. Chick jumped off the keyboard and said, ‘Frank, your amp will be pointing at this angle across the stage...” It was then that I knew my life would change forever!
You are one of the most respected teachers of the guitar. Is there any advice you’d like to give to aspiring guitar players in India?
I think it's important to always be learning. If you don't know what to play, like a certain chord, then that's what you should practice. Find the scale, harmonize it, learn it's arpeggios, it's pentatonic, and play with the notes. Sometimes if you sit for 10 minutes without the guitar, just to decide what you are going to learn in your practice time, that's good too. The bottom line is that quality time is more important the quantity time.