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Ideas of Improvisation in Indian music and Jazz

  • Chhandayan Center For Indian Music 4 West, 43rd Street, #618 New York City, New York 10036 United States (map)

Explore the concepts of Improvisation with renowned Jazz Musicians Ned Rothenberg, Ken Wessel, sitarist Dr. Drubesh Chandra Regmi, and Indian Flute player Jay Gandhi

Ned Rothenberg

Ned Rothenberg composes and performs on saxophones, clarinets, flute and shakuhachi (an end blown Japanese bamboo flute). He has been internationally acclaimed for his solo music which he has presented for over 30 years in hundreds of concerts throughout North and South America, Europe, Japan and Australia. He has lead the ensembles Double Band, Power Lines and Sync, his current assemblage with Jerome Harris, acoustic guitar & acoustic bass guitar and Samir Chaterjee, tabla. Current and past collaborators include Evan Parker, Marc Ribot, Sainkho Namchylak, Masahiko Sato, Samm Bennett, Kazu Uchihashi, Paul Dresher and John Zorn.  He has lived and worked in New York City since 1978.

Rothenberg's musical interests are numerous and his work varies widely in its sonic, emotive and stylistic profiles. A strong underlying element of his instrumental voice is the extension of the woodwind language to incorporate polyphony and accurate microtonal organization through the manipulation of multiphonics, circular breathing, and overtone control, using his horns not only in a normal melodic role but also as rhythmic and harmonic engines in both solo and ensemble contexts. As a composer he can move from the contemporary classical setting of his Quintet for Clarinet and Strings to "Jazz-funk in cubist perspective, dizzying, yet visceral" (Jon Pareles, NY Times re Double Band) to music that is "intense, slightly melancholic, rhapsodic without being sentimental” (Edward Rothstein, NY Times referring to his solo work).  His concentration on expanded sonic language is directed towards wider possibilities of musical communication, never at technical novelty as an end in itself.

Rothenberg's frequent international travels have included a 6-month residency in Japan during which he performed throughout the country and studied shakuhachi with two of the foremost masters of the instrument,Goro Yamaguchi and Katsuya Yokoyama. In the 1990s he spent 5 years touring Europe, Russia, Japan and the U.S. in duo with the spectacular Tuvan vocalist Sainkho Namchylak.  More recently, he has twice been in residence in Lyon, France at the performance laboratory Les Subsistances, creating music for a performance piece about Rimbaud realized by director Lukas Hemleb, and collaborating with dancer/choreographer Wally Cardona.  His most recent solo tour concentrated on performances in live acoustic environments, with concerts in churches and galleries throughout Germany, Austria and Italy and superb sonic environments like Bremen's Sendesaal, where he performed in utter darkness. These are just a few examples; international touring continues each year playing festivals, theatres and clubs as a leader or collaborator.

Rothenberg records extensively.  He has 6 releases on John Zorn's TZADIK label. The latest is a solo clarinet cd, World of Odd Harmonics. Inner Diaspora features Sync along with 2 pre-eminent improvising string virtuosi, Mark Feldman and Erik Friedlander. Through the music and in his liner notes, Rothenberg responds to the complexities of his Jewish heritage.  A new book of music for this group will be written for premier and recording in April, 2014.  The Lumina Recordings, is a retrospective reissue of Rothenberg's solo recordings from 1981-85 with vastly improved sound and detailed documentation. Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, Ghost Stories and Ryu Nashi are all chamber music recordings on TZADIK’s Composer Series. The initial release of Rothenberg's own label, Animul, was Intervals, a 2 cd set of solo music for alto saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet and shakuhachi. This was followed by R.U.B. with Percussionist/DJ/ Samm Bennett and guitarist Kazuhisa Uchihashi.  Next came Sync's 2nd cd, Harbinger. Following was The Fell Clutch, a jam band for big-eared listeners with Tony Buck, drums, and Stomu Takeishi, fretless bass, Rothenberg and special guest, Dave Tronzo, on electric slide guitar. Also on ANIMUL is a live duo recording with Rothenberg and Evan Parker. In addition, selected recordings include:, Sync's Port of Entry (Intuition), a solo CD, The Crux (Leo), Double Band's Parting, Overlays and Real & Imagined Time(Moers Music), Amulet, the duo with Sainkho Namchylak (Leo), and a studio collaboration co-composed with Paul Dresher, Opposites Attract (New World).  Also on New World is Power Lines, picked by the New York Times as one of the 10 best cds of 1995.

Born in 1956 in Boston, Rothenberg graduated from Oberlin College and studied at Oberlin Conservatory, Berklee School of Music, privately with Les Scott (saxophone & clarinet), and George Coleman (jazz improvisation). However, his trademark solo technique is self-taught. He has received grants and commissions from the New York Foundation for the Arts, New York State Arts Council, Mary Flagler Cary Trust, Lila Wallace Foundation, Chamber Music America, Asian Cultural Council, Roulette, Jerome Foundation, Meet the Composer, Japan Society and ASCAP.  He has given workshops and masterclasses worldwide, at institutions including Berklee School of Music, Oberlin Conservatory, New School/Mannes School of Music, University of California, San Diego, Stanford University, Rotterdam Conservatory, Australian Institute of Music, Princeton University, University de Sao Paulo, and the Auroville International Community in Auroville, India.

Ken Wessel

Ken Wessel is a versatile, sensitive and soulful guitarist and composer. A vital and personal voice on the jazz guitar, Wessel has been involved in projects playing jazz, ranging from straight-ahead to free music. Ken is also very interested in creating and investigating points of intersection between jazz and Indian music and has performed and recorded with musicians from various parts of the globe. He has performed in 27 countries at major jazz festivals, concert halls and in radio and television appearances.

Wessel worked with revolutionary jazz artist Ornette Coleman for over 12 years (1988-2000), touring the world as a member of Prime Time, Ornette’s groundbreaking ensemble. Ken can be heard on Ornette Coleman’s critically acclaimed Polygram/Verve CD, Tone Dialing. Performing “Skies of America,” Ornette Coleman’s seminal work for symphony orchestra and jazz ensemble, Ken has appeared with Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. Ken can also be heard on Steely Dan frontman, Donald Fagen’s album, Morph the Cat as a featured guitar soloist. He has worked with artists from different shades of the jazz spectrum, including John Abercrombie, David Liebman, Gloria Lynne, Arthur and Red Prysock, Karl Berger, Steve Gorn, Adam Rudolph, Hamid Drake, Steve Turre and Johnny Hartmann.

Ken has a strong interest in world music, particulary with North Indian music, and he has performed with Debashish Bhattacharya, Karaikudi Mani, V.M. Bhatt, Samir Chatterjee and others. Wessel co-leads a trio with jazz tabla master Badal Roy and bassist Stomu Takeishi. Their CD, Daybreak, was included in JAZZIZ magazine’s Top 10 Critic’s Picks of 1998. They have performed together extensively throughout North America. In 1995, Ken and Badal toured India and the U.S. with their composition, “Testimony,” which was commissioned by the Battery Dance Company. As a U.S. Jazz Ambassador, Ken has toured South Asia and South America, visiting India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bengladesh and Venezuela in 2002-03.

He is an active composer (he has received numerous “Meet the Composer” grants) and his original music has an organic and evocative quality. Wessel recently released Weights & Measures on Nonotes Records, which features Joel Frahm (sax), Brad Jones (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums. Hisearlier trio recording, Jawboning (CIMP), with bassist, Ken Filiano and drummer, Lou Grassi investigates the boundaries between freedom and structure.

A dedicated jazz educator, Ken currently teaches at Long Island University (Brooklyn campus) and at CCNY. He has given clinics and Master classes at numerous institutions in the U.S. and overseas, including Yale University, Manhattan School of Music, ISCMS Festival, Istanbul, Turkey, the Jazz Education Network Conference, Atlanta, Ga, Mahaidol University in Thailand, the Music Academy in Oslo, Norway, and Columbia University.

Dr. Dhrubesh Chandra Regmi

Dhrubesh is an exponent of the sitar from an illustrious musical family of Nepal. His great grandfather Dev C Regmi is credited for pioneering sitar in Nepal. His grandfather Krishna C Regmi was the recipient of coveted Indra Rajya Laxmi Award for his contribution to the Nepali music. The musical environment at home inculcated a deep interest of music in Dhrubesh’s mind and heart. Under the tutelage of his father Prof Satish C Regmi, he honed his skills as he grew up and he subsequently joined the music school Gandharva Mahavidhyalaya in India and subsequently Delhi University.

Dhrubesh feels himself very fortunate to have had lessons from the likes of Prof Anil Dhar and Pandit Binay Chandra Maudgalya (Bhaiji) in Delhi. Most importantly, he systematically studied sitar with the legendary maestro Pt. Uma Shankar Mishra in accordance with guru-shishya (master-disciple) tradition. Dhrubesh became the first musician to hold PhD degree in music in Nepal. He was awarded Doctor of Philosophy from Delhi University for his dissertation titled "History of music in Nepal with special reference to classical music during the Rana period."

Dhrubesh, is an Associate Professor at Padma Kanya Multiple Campus, Tribhuvan University and is now a respected name in the field of music in Nepal. He is also a recipient of various prestigious awards and prizes. He has been also appointed "Goodwill Ambassador for Nepal Tourism Year 2011" by the Nepal Tourism Board of Nepal Government. Dhrubesh is one of the founding members of popular Classical and Nepali folk musical group Sukarma. He has travelled many parts of the world and published more than 13 audio visual Compact discs. Recently, as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar, Dhrubesh also completed his Post Doctorate and Artistic work on the theme of “Music for Peace and Harmony” at The Graduate Centre of the City University of New York.

Jay Gandhi

A truly outstanding disciple of the world renowned bansuri maestro, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Jay initially trained in vocal music under Smt. Kum Kum Sanyal and later bansuri under Pt. Ronu Majumdar, Pt. Vijay Raghav Rao and Pt. Raghunath Seth. Inspired to gain deeper knowledge of both the gayaki ang (vocal style) as well as the tantrakari ang (stringed instrument style), Jay has also taken guidance from Pt Vidyadhar Vyas (vocal) and Pt. Nayan Ghosh (sitar, tabla). He is truly blessed to have been studying under the living legend of the bansuri, Padma Vibhushan Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, at Brindavan Gurukul in Mumbai since 2006.

His musical pursuits are not limited to that of the Indian sub-continent; he has great love for the music of the African diaspora and America's classical music – Jazz, as well. In 2004, he completed an Individual Major in Jazz Performance at Oberlin College/Conservatory of Music (Ohio), studying privately under such Jazz luminaries as the saxophonist Gary Bartz and trumpetist Marcus Belgrave. He has since collaborated extensively with many noted Jazz musicians including composer/Jazz pianist Courtney Bryan and trumpetist Lech Wierzynski.

A recipient of the prestigious American Institute of Indian Studies Senior Performing Arts Fellowship, Jay has already been invited to perform across the globe, enthralling audiences in India, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North America. He is currently based out of New York City and is very active as both a teacher and performer and also as a founding member of Brooklyn Raga Massive, an increasingly prominent Indian Classical artists collective.

This seminar is sponsored in part by: