While the word tincture might be commonly referred to as medicine, as in “tincture of iodine”, it also means “a trace” — a tad, a small amount. A tiny drop. A soupçon. Of jazz.
Aman Mahajan (piano) and Nishad Pandey (guitar) performed as a duo named Tinctures a few days ago at The Blue Room, a quiet, pensive, intimate and classy performance space in the midst of a higgledy-piggledy urban landscape filled with construction and crooked roads.
There was a little jazz, a little classical Indian music, a little classical Western music and a little I-don’t-know-what. But there was nothing little about the magical experience.
I say this not because Aman Mahajan is someone I both love and admire as a keyboard player and human being, but because the duo’s music made me forget my surroundings, (which included one audience member’s rather insistent and rude snorts right through the show.)
The pieces were original music composed by both Mahajan and Pandey, who both took turns improvising alone and sometimes played off each other’s notes and rhythms. Often they played in unison.
Mahajan is an accomplished jazz and Western classical musician, many of whose compositions I know quite well and have even sung. Pandey is a student of classical Indian music and a composer.
But they are both first and foremost masters of modern music. The kind of music that is genre-free and looks to see how easily two people can collaborate with each other, without the usual boundaries of chord structure or defined rhythm.
Both Mahajan and Pandey were in complete control of their instruments, each bringing to the stage a vast vocabulary. So their conversation was crisp, intelligent, surprising, never boring, never repetitive and made interesting points and resolved into crowd pleasing resolution after each tune.
You can watch them on YouTube:
Or Listen to more of them online.
It’s hard to put a label on the music of Tinctures. It was occasionally foot tapping (in odd time signatures of course) altogether pleasing, extremely soothing and put me in an excellent mood.
That’s very hard to do in Bangalore when a ride from Cooke Town to Jayanagar is a nightmare from beginning to end. Bangalore needs Tinctures on every street corner. –
Radha Thomas, Bangalore, 01 Feb 2019
About Radha Thomas
Jazz singer Radha Thomas (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radha_Thomas) is an author, leader of a jazz band, a vocalist and a composer. She loves dogs.
Explocity background notes on Tinctures of Jazz
Jazz music in India, which blossomed on either side of the World Wars, suffered its dark ages in the 80s through the aughts when the Indian jazz musician looking for a jazz scene had scarcely a jazz club to host a jazz band. Jazz music as as a discipline and as an art form has long been (falsely) perceived as the preserve of black musicians especially those of New York City. Indian jazz aficionados have looked up to the early ambassadors of American culture, particularly jazz, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and and others. While the grammar of jazz was never black and white, it is commonly accepted that the grammar was essentially bebop and hard bop and the domain of labels like Blue Note. But the jazz records that made it in India featured an eclectic selection of bossa nova, acid jazz, even smooth jazz that is yet to be exorcised from every hotel lobby and elevator.
In the 80s, a number of international jazz musicians such as John McLaughlin, came to India to learn Carnatic and Hindustani music (rarely any African Americans came). The ensuing years saw a number of collaborative Carnatic / Hindustani – Jazz projects, but in these ensembles, the musicians from the west played Indian music but there’s no evidence that the Indians played or learned jazz — even if sometimes they claimed or believed they did.
A few of them made it out west and had remarkable success as did the author of the article above, Radha Thomas, who has lived, performed and recorded with a number of jazz greats in New York.
Call it evolution, but these stepping stones were a path for later musicians, serious about their craft found their way to reputable music schools and found their voice, in jazz and otherwise. Two such talents are pianist, Aman Mahajan and guitarist Nishad Pandey whose music vocabulary is grammatical, evolved and finds its own language and expression.