The Kush Upadhyay Group Get Groovy on Second EP
The 18-year-old Mumbai guitarist leads his band through jazz, rock and blues on ‘Perspective’; launch it tonight at Mumbai’s Antisocial Khar
At 18, guitarist Kush Upadhyay is already a session guitarist for some of the music circuit’s most popular names—singer-songwriter Vasuda Sharma, playback singers Shefali Alvares and Hriday Gattani, blues rock act Kanchan Daniel and the Beards, jazz veteran Louiz Banks-led Guitar Synergy, to name a few. So tracking an EP in, say, five hours is probably child’s play for the Mumbai-based musician, as was the case last year with his band’s four-track release Songs In The Key Of EP. Says Upadhyay, “We try to keep it one take and you nail it down, there’s no coming in on a song or overdub . It’s just what’s happened at the moment unless some one of us genuinely fucked up and then we have to track again.”
The Kush Upadhyay Group bring a similar spontaneity on their latest record Perspective, which furthers Upadhyay’s signature sonic blend of blues, jazz and rock. This time, the five-track release was recorded in a mere one and a half days at Mumbai’s Cotton Press Studios (and later mixed and mastered by renowned guitarist and Mumbai-based blues act Blackstratblues frontman Warren Mendonsa.) “Everything happened really fast,” says Upadhyay, “It was kind of impulsive, if I had to say!”
Perspective also sees Upadhyay regroup with his band comprising drummer Varoon Aiyer and bassist Nathan Thomas, with the addition of keyboardist Anurag Naidu two weeks before hitting the studio to record. While Aiyer—also the drummer for Mumbai grunge act Split—hails from a punk/rock background, Thomas roots for RnB; Naidu on the other hand is a true blue “jazzcat,” as the guitarist puts it. It’s the same musical variety that crept in at times when the band was building on the guitarist’s ideas for the record: “Sometimes what happens is that what I have in mind and what they have in mind is completely two different things, which makes the song completely different from what I anticipated it,” explains Upadhyay. “That’s probably one of the reasons I named the album ‘Perspective,’ because it’s a little bit of all of them coming together and forming one idea.”
While Upadhyay admits there’s no particular imagery behind any of the tracks on the album—“I just see how the music kind of reacts to what I’m doing,” he says—Perspective is just as evocative a record which, in its prime moments, recalls the likes of guitar icon Jeff Beck and closer to home, Kolkata’s experimental jazz act The Bodhisattwa Trio. If “The World Is a Strange Place” is a mellow Moog-driven ballad, “Spacey” is a slow burn crescendo to Upadhyay’s wizardry on the fretboard. “The Funk Wagon” and title track follow similar suit as Naidu and Upadhyay take their turn at winding solos against a steady drum-and-bass section. “Limbo” on the other hand does just that—alternating between chugging riffwork and quieter interludes.
Upadhyay, who first picked up the guitar in 2011, citing the likes of rock gods Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan as his earliest influences, has “slowly and steadily” progressed to drawing from jazz greats like Weather Report, Miles Davis, Michael Landau and Scott Henderson over the years. But his more influential teachers have been the bands he performs with, and their “decades of experience.” Says Upadhyay, “Every time you’re up on stage with them or at rehearsal, just watching them play and hearing what their thought process is behind everything; it’s just great. It’s more like a learning process as of now.”
Apart from performing the EP in its entirety at the launch gig tonight, Upadhyay has a lot more planned for the show at Antisocial Khar. The band will also be premiering newer, untracked material and a cover of Landau’s 1996 tune “I’m Buzzed,” alongside revisiting the Songs In The Key Of EP. Upadhyay and co. will also be joined by Kanchan Daniel on Janis Joplin’s “Cosmic Blues.” Says Upadhyay, “Our sets are improv-based… All of us are part of various session bands where you have to stick to a structure given by the head person of that band. Here, it’s basically to have fun.”
The Kush Upadhyay Group will perform tonight at Antisocial Khar, Mumbai with an opening set by Anurag Naidu Quartet. Click here for more details.
Click here to buy ‘Perspective’.