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Jazz, with its complexity, unique structures, and harmonies, is often admired yet not entirely understood. The way it sounds, its complexity, and the challenge it presents—all these elements draw people in. But the greater challenge, for many, is how to explain it.
What Is This Thing Called Jazz?, is a lecdem featuring two of the city’s most accomplished jazz musicians—guitarist Ramjee Chandran and pianist Aman Mahajan.
Performing a selection of iconic jazz standards, they will break down the complex structures and theory of jazz in an easy-to-follow manner for the casual listener, curious entrant and seasoned jazz aficionado alike.
They will explain—and musically demonstrate—why bebop is the defining grammar of the language of jazz, how to recognise it and what to look for when one listens to jazz.
Their style is witty, light hearted, even irreverent—and their performance will be unrehearsed and unscripted to stay true to the spontaneity of jazz.
NOTES ON BEBOP: Bebop, an intellectual form of jazz from the 1940s is hailed as the defining grammar of jazz. Bebop musicians were not just instinctive players; they were also deeply immersed in music theory. This theoretical grounding allowed them to understand and manipulate complex harmonies and rhythms, giving their improvisations a sense of purpose and direction. Bebops theoretical framework laid the foundation for future jazz education and analysis. From bop giants like Miles Davis and John Coltrane to contemporary innovators like Esperanza Spalding and Robert Glasper, bebops DNA is woven into the very fabric of jazz.
Ramjee Chandran is an entirely self-taught jazz guitarist, who has devoted this aspect of his craft to studying and exclusively performing bebop jazz.
Starting initially with the classical guitar, his musical journey with bebop started one day when he found himself scatting along with Dizzy Gillespie’s solo on A Night In Tunisia; and he has stayed bitten ever since. He is one of few bebop jazz guitarists in the country.
He performs in public almost exclusively with jazz singer Radha Thomas and with Aman Mahajan.
Ramjee Chandran is host of Explocity’s podcast, The Literary City. He has been a writer and magazine editor for over three decades. He is currently working on his new project, The History Of Bangalore.
Apart from playing jazz guitar at the professional level, he says that he plays chess with unusual mediocrity.
Indian pianist-composer Aman Mahajan plays improvised music as a medium of exploration, expression and exchange. His work is often reflective, influenced by a diversity of traditional and contemporary forms from around the world. His solo piano album REFUGE explores ideas of home, paying homage to inward journeys.
Mahajan has performed widely in the Indian music circuit, and internationally at venues including Moods (Zürich, 2020), Murszene (Graz, 2019), Jazzwerkstatt (Graz, 2018), Jazz Utsav (New Delhi, 2017), EUROPAFest (Sinaia, 2015), Festival of Sacred Music (Thiruvaiyaru, 2015), Goa Jazz Festival (Goa, 2014), IndiEarth XChange (Madras, 2014), Rhythm & Blues Festival (Kasauli, 2014), goMAD Festival (Ooty, 2013) and MAD Festival (Ooty, 2012).
Focussed on the development of the contemporary improvised music scene in India, Mahajan also teaches privately at his piano studio in Bangalore, and has been a returning faculty member at the Global Music Institute, Delhi. He curates performances at a few independent venues in Bangalore. His work is inspired by a search for unity and connection.