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Amyt Datta

West Coast Session: Amyt Datta puts together a band to celebrate ‘The Groove’

A gift from guitarist Ehsaan Noorani sparks inspiration, 10 new tracks that pack a delicate punch to be unveiled at Skinny Mo’s on Saturday

Shantanu Datta | Published 16.11.23, 03:59 PM
Amyt Datta

Amyt Datta


Imagine bright, sprightly guitar lines, seductive melodies and some jazz harmonies locked into a groove by the bass and drums. The concoction draws you in immediately. The feet tap. The head bobs and the mind starts ticking. Where have I heard this tune before? You haven’t. It’s the music that makes you feel that way.

Guitar guru Amyt Datta, in a bolt of inspiration, is revisiting a distinctive sound emanating from 1980s California, USA, and has put together a band to play just that. He’s written all the tunes for a concert billed as “West Coast Session” to be held at Skinny Mo’s on Saturday, November 18 at 7.30pm. Helping him in the proceedings will be Rishav Debnath (guitar), Soumojit Das (bass), Chiradeep Lahiri (drums), and Deboprotim Baksi (percussion).


What led Datta back to the West Coast? A gift. Here’s the back story. Recently, the Amyt Datta Electric Power Quartet played a gig in Mumbai featuring a selection of tunes from his upcoming album showcasing an entirely different kind of music. Befitting the band’s name, the tunes encompassed in-your-face improvisation with controlled aggression on a Fender Stratocaster while staying confidently perched on jazz rock. Those in the audience at The Studio Theatre of NMACC on September 1 were bowled over, in particular a stellar cast of musicians, most of them friends from “back in the day”. Guitar wiz Ehsaan Noorani (“Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy” is just one of his many accomplishments) liked the experience so much that, about a week later, he ended up gifting a guitar to Datta. Thus was born West Coast Sessions.

The music demands finesse, notes Datta. “Everything about this music is out in the open. You play melody after hummable melody. It’s got its own challenges though… elements of jazz, blues, all encased in a delightful groove,” he tells My Kolkata over a conversation. Excerpts:

My Kolkata: A gift of a guitar leads to an idea. And now we’re going to have a concert. How did it all fall into place?

Amyt Datta: Ehsaan and a few of us met for dinner in Kolkata after my show in Mumbai which he attended. Suddenly Ehsaan says that there’s a guitar in the next room and that I should check it out. It was a Don Grosh. I had never played this guitar with the kind of pick-up configuration it had. It’s in-between a Strat and a jazz master. So, I played it a bit and told him I loved it. A little later, Ehsaan says that the ‘good news’ is that the guitar was for me. I said, ‘whaaat?’ So that’s story of the guitar.

Then what happened?

So, I come home and a few days later set up my pedals and start playing the guitar to get a feel of it. And while doing so, I was reminded of my practice sessions back in the day, especially playing stuff that was bluesy, with a Larry Carlton-like semi jazz, pop feel to it. The sound of the guitar was out of this world. I got super inspired … and in that burst I wrote about 10 tunes. It wasn’t all that difficult. It was interesting to stitch together my experiences of learning the instrument over the years; you know, a little bit of Steely Dan, Larry Carlton, a bit of Robben Ford…

So, it was about the sound of the Don Grosh?

Something we guitarists typically do while playing a new instrument is to noodle about with a minor pentatonic blues kind of thing. On this guitar it sounded so authentic that I realised it had to be played at a gig. The sound of this guitar cannot remain within the confines of my bedroom. So I thought of a line-up of two guitars, bass, drums and percussion and decided to venture on.

I notice there is no keyboard.

It’s just that I have an easier access to guitarists among my students. Also, it will be a nice testing ground for them.

How is it to experience the music take shape and come alive?

It is enjoyable for sure. We played a bit at home with acoustic guitars and some light percussion. But as of today (a day after the first full-band practice) I can sense the light at the end of the lane. We have to turn another corner to actually see the light.

There are a number of elements in what is known as the West Coast sound.

It is very interesting. There’s a certain magic to this sound. At first listen you tend to go, ‘wow, what a groove!’ You hear the melody and even think that you can sing it… But the moment you start to play it, you realise the problems, because harmonically it is quite sophisticated. This music draws a lot from jazz and the grooves, locked in by the bass and drums, are more pop/funk/R&B. The sonic quality of, let’s say the scales, are more bluesy. And the percussion player takes care of the upper filigree work. That’s the design.

Fourplay comes to mind as one of the bands to come out of this soundscape.

Absolutely, you said it. And there are many more, say, Steely Dan, Larry Carlton, Bill Withers, Bob James, Lee Ritenour …

How much of the West Coast sound has seeped into Amyt Datta’s own music?

Nothing at all. This music has been played a thousand times, by the likes of, say, Larry Carlton – a ‘monster’ of a guitar player -- and way better than I could ever dream of. My musical journey happened organically. I was always trying to chart my own path, look for my own sound. But there is a fine line. In my music, for instance, in the album that is about to come out, I am using the same material like jazz harmonies, finesse, a bit of the blues. But I am using them in a different sentiment. Also, some Indian-isms have found their way into my music.

Thank you for speaking to My Kolkata. Best wishes for the concert.

Thank you so much.

Last updated on 16.11.23, 04:16 PM

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