A deep conversation/QnA session with the Maestro Pradyumna Singh Manot aka Paddy (Latin Jazz Pianist//Educator) as The Showrunners exclusive pick of the Week
I am fortunate enough to jam with Paddy a few times at The PianoMan Jazz Club. Each time, The experiences and learnings were different. He truly pays attention to each and every note played by the ensemble and he knows the fluent art of how to conduct them in a way that it could be fruitful learning for the entire ensemble. He is a phenomenal master of his craft. Today I have the great opportunity to do this QnA session with undoubtedly one of the most genius and skilled performers and educators, a humorous person who can make you fall in love with music instantly and also someone who can click some nice photos of you.
Q1. Tell us about your early days of music? How did you start getting into music? Also a little bit about your school life?
My father is used to the learn the piano from Anto Menezes who was a jazz vibraphonist. Watching my father learn I became quite interested. This is around when I was six. And by watching him I tried to imitate his finger movements and play the pieces. So he put me on to the classes. And that was my beginning. I was lucky to be in St. James’ school here in Kolkata. Our school was very music oriented and many teachers were musicians. And everything that happened in school involved music.
In class 4, I was asked to play for school assembly with the boys singing one of the songs from the hymn book. That was my first tryst with chords. My school life gave me ample opportunities to do music and to the point that in the last four years I did music all the time and hardly went to class. Every school function had me on the piano.
Q2. What was the reason behind choosing the Piano as your main instrument? Tell us about your influences and what inspired you the most while you were starting out as a beginner?
I did not choose the piano. It just happened to me. But as of today, I will choose the piano. So much can be done on it. It is an extremely comprehensive instrument and very strong as a solo instrument. It has powerful percussive capabilities and can do very complex harmonies. As a beginner to jazz the musicians who inspired me a lot were Herbie and Miles. Head Hunters, Kind of Blue, etc. Later on the more I discovered, the more I got drowned into the depths of Jazz and Latin music.
Q3. How did you pursue music education? What were those aspects during your early days of learning that worked wonders for you?
When I started to get into jazz it was when I was moving out of being a classical pianist and looking for something that spoke to me more. Jazz being improvised music really attracted me. At that time I could not find a teacher in Kolkata. Two musicians helped me out in whatever way they could. Bapai Da, and Sumith Ramachandran. I’m ever grateful to them.
Then one day I went to see a solo jazz piano performance. Madhav Chari. That concert was a turning point. I eventually became his student and in his association, I learnt a tremendous amount. I’m still learning what he taught me. He shaped the way I look at music and particularly rhythm. He gave me only three lessons on the piano and the rest was about my understanding of jazz and the culture of jazz.
Q4. How to network and market yourself as an independent musician? How to get into the list of established first-call session musicians of your local music circuit?
I’m old school when it comes to this! I post lesser than musicians I know. I really don’t know how to market myself and I don’t think I even try. The only thing I know is practice. Get better. Play better. And people remember you. A musician friend told me once you are as good as your last performance. That is very true. Musicians and audiences remember those whose performance moves them or blows them over. I’m just very average at the social media thing.
Q5. With the advent of the internet in India, the up and coming musicians of this generation are exposed to a vast variety of genres to learn from and the information is also rather easily accessible, What challenges did you face in your time especially since you represent such an exotic style of music for an Indian audience?
The biggest challenge was getting information. I grew up in a non-Internet non-mobile phone world. In my teens, I would go to Max Mueller Bhavan and borrow audio CDs. One a day. Listen and then go back the next day. Today I can listen to anything I want any time from my pocket! Those days of getting a book on music were like finding diamonds on the street. The best source of information, or rather mostly the only source we’re other musicians. But it also was a great way in some respects.
There was serious hunger all the time. No information overload. And you would truly assimilate in the little knowledge you had access to. I remember my first Salsa music album. I heard that CD over five hundred times in my portable CD player. That is all I had then to listen to and I chewed it through and through!
Q6. Based on the privileges this generation has in terms of access to information, Do you hear or sense any change in the output of the current generation’s musicians?
The only thing I would say is that people need to not worry about not knowing enough and know that knowing a little extremely well goes a long long way. (Complex sentence!). There are so many good musicians in the upcoming generations. But with the information overload, a lot of them tend to get very confused and lost. My advice. Always have a great mentor. And even when you don’t understand what the mentor is trying to say to you, stick with it. It will make sense eventually.
Q7. Being a phenomenal performer, What’s your mindset during your performances and how did you develop such a vast melodic and rhythmic vocabulary? Also what challenges do you face in your live sessions with other musicians?
Thank you for the compliment! When I perform I only want to have the best time ever! I want it to be a party! All music always started with dancing. Be it jazz or classical. Making them art comes later. And l always want that first and over everything else. I love it when people dance to what I’m playing. Then, of course, I want to say deep stories in the music for which melodies and harmonies serve as powerful tools. The way I went about this is mostly through endless hours of listening.
When I started out I put in four to five hours of listening a day. Today I do at least an album a day. The difficulty I face with playing live with other musicians sometimes is always the time feel. The swing, sabor, groove. If we don’t feel it in a similar way then it does not cook. The gig is not strong. But when it does cook, everything is on fire!
Q8. What’s on your playlist these days? Tell us about your current influences and Any top 10 albums you would like to recommend?
Currently, I am listening to a lot of Alain Perez and Mulgrew Miller. Some of my influences are Wynton Marsalis, Danilo Perez, Chucho Valdes, Keith Jarrett, etc. But this list is HUGE!!!!!
Ten albums randomly (not top ten. Too many!)
Kind of Blue — Miles Davis
Buena Vista Social Club
Friday and Saturday Night at The Blackhawk — Miles Davis
Inside Betty Carter
Upward Spiral — Branford Marsalis
Nancy Wilson and Cannonball
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
A Giant Step — Charlie Palmieri
To Bird with Love — Dizzy Gillespie
A Romper El Coco — Alain Perez
These are just a FEW!!!
Q9. If you have a chance to change or improve a few things about musicians in India, what would you like to improve/change?
Conviction. You can do it. And you must. No matter what. See it through. It will happen! Just be completely devoted to working hard and the results will ultimately come.
Q10. One or more advice each for this generation’s musicians and music educators that you’d like to sign off with? Perhaps something you learned the hard way but helped you in the long run that may benefit the budding musicians?
The ten most important things in music are
- Rhythmic feel
- Rhythmic feel
- Rhythmic feel
- Rhythmic feel
- Rhythmic feel….
You get the drift.
Rhythm is everything. The audience does not know your chords or melodies. They can feel your rhythm and listen to your story. That’s all.
Pradyumna Singh Manot a.k.a. Paddy, is a fiery Latin Jazz Pianist, composer, and music educator from India. He is Founder, Director of Music Studies, Prime Mentor, and Head of Departments of Piano, Jazz, and Blues at 12 Keys.
He started studying the piano at the age of 6. He studied Western Classical Music for 12 years and gave numerous recitals, which included solo piano recitals and the performances of many piano concertos with A’telier de Musique under the conducting of Abraham Mazumdar.
Pradyumna studied North Indian Classical music for three years. He studied tabla under Ustad Sabir Khan of the Farrukhabad Gharana and vocal music under Kumar Mukherjee and Ustad Raza Ali Khan of the Patiala Gharana. Pradyumna has given many concerts with Indian music doyens such as Grammy winner Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Pandit Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, Ustad Rashid Khan, Ustad Sabir Khan, Pandit Vikku Vinayakram, Ustad Taufique Quereshi, Ustad Shujaat Khan, Ustad Raza Ali Khan, Pt. Tarun Bhattacharya, Pandit Subhankar Banerjee, Pandit Gopal Burman, Pandit Jyoti Guho, Pandit Vaidyanath Suresh, Pandit Satish Kumar, Ustad Raza Ali Khan, Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya, Arif Khan, and Rishabh Dhar.
Pradyumna started his journey in the study of Jazz music at the age of 18 and at 24 became a student of the late Madhav Chari for 8 years. He has since performed extensively with popular blues, jazz, and Latin ensembles such as Saturday Night Blues Band, Los Amigos, The Latination, and Jazzeando. He is the founder and leader of the Latin ensemble Los Gatos, Poco Loco and Jazz ensemble — 4 on a Swing, which has been impaneled with India Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and represented India in the Panama Jazz festival 2018 and performed at the prestigious Danilo Perez Jazz Club in Panama. Pradyumna has extensively toured as a jazz pianist and performed at various concert halls, venues, jazz clubs and prestigious national and international festivals (Java Jazz Festival 2011, Nagaland Piano Festival 2017, NCPA Jazz Festival 2017, ICCR Delhi International Jazz festival, Magnetic Fields Festival 2017 and 2018, Giants of Jazz Festival 2017, Panama Jazz Festival 2018, Pune Jazz Festival 2018 etc. ) He has performed with American Jazz Singers Clare Michaud, Megan Powers, Canadian Trombonist Alistair Kay (who played for Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra), bassist Steve Zerlin and many others.
It was my pleasure to do a round of such an informative and insightful QnA session. I hope it helps and inspires every musician in any aspect of music.
You can follow Paddy on Social media —
That’s it for today. See you soon with another amazing musician in our next edition of The Showrunners exclusive pick of the week.