Tuesday 06/25/2019 by phishnet

MEET AMAR SASTRY OF "ANATOMY OF A JAM" FAME

[In case you’re unfamiliar with his work, Amar Sastry is part of the Osiris podcast network, and Amar’s “Anatomy of a Jam” videos can be found here. -charlie]

CD: Thank you so much for the 11/22/97 "Halley's Comet" "Anatomy of a Jam" film, it was very inspiring to watch, not just for many volunteers of phish.net but even for Jon Fishman, as you've seen from his post on Facebook about it. When did you begin writing and composing "Anatomy of a Jam" pieces and what inspired you to create them?

A: Thank you for the kind words! I’m truly blown away by the positive response and support from the Phish community.

© 2018 Mark DeLorenzo (Amar on guitar)
© 2018 Mark DeLorenzo (Amar on guitar)

I started making Youtube videos in 2017 as a passion project. I spend a lot of my time as a hired gun “lead" guitar player in upstate New York and I get to play rock, jazz, blues, folk, country, and soul gigs with a bunch of killer local musicians that I'm lucky enough to call my friends.

But many of my close musician (and non-musician) buds aren’t into the whole jamband scene, so my Youtube channel became a place for me to share my love and respect for the music that has brought me so much joy.

On a purely selfish level, Youtube is the one place where I have 100% creative control. Playing live music with others is an entirely collaborative experience, and it’s my favorite activity on the planet. But it’s also fulfilling to have a personal outlet where I call the shots, and I don’t have to answer to anyone but the almighty algorithm.

Anatomy of a Jam was my answer to the question “What is the absolute BEST video I could make about Phish?” And I don’t mean “best” as in “how can this get a lot of views?” With this series, I wanted to find a concrete way of expressing how deeply Phish’s music has impacted my life, because those feelings have been sitting behind closed doors for most of my existence.

Two years ago, I heard Tim Ferriss say something on his podcast like “At some point it’s less painful to put your ideas out into the world than it is to have them sitting inside your head,” and later that day I started making videos. I didn’t have any real experience in video production and I didn’t expect anyone to watch my content (and I still don’t expect it), so I’m seriously honored that anyone spends time on my channel and/or gets any value from what I have to share.

CD: How long has music been a compelling part of your life?

A: I became obsessed with music around the age of 10, when badass funky & heavy bands like Rage Against the Machine, 311, RHCP, Tool, and Primus were dominating MTV. I would spend hours playing air guitar along to their videos and begged my folks to invest in an electric bass, because I wanted to be Flea when I grow up. (I still do...it’s not too late, is it?)

After discovering the Grateful Dead and Phish a couple years later, I switched to guitar because I was captivated by the way Jerry, Bobby, and Trey would improvise and compose music. Each of those three legends seemed to turn the guitar into a completely different instrument with their wildly unique approaches. Even 20+ years later, I still feel the same excitement and intrigue when listening to their music, as I did as a kid.

CD: What were your first musical performances? Your most memorable? Your most memorable Phish shows?

A: I played trombone in school concert band starting at 9 or 10 years old, and was playing rock gigs as a bass player at 13. I misplace my car keys at least twice a day, so it should be no surprise that I can’t remember those first performances too vividly. The first big concert I ever attended was 311 and De La Soul at Jones Beach in August ‘97, which was a lot of fun.

My most memorable performance was playing Carnegie Hall before my 30th birthday, which was such an incredible experience. I played with a jazz quintet and with an orchestra that night, and the sound/vibe in that room is nothing short of heavenly.

Some friends and I also used to regularly sneak into the Wetlands Preserve back in 1999-2001 and we saw some mind-blowing performances in that perfect little cauldron of innovation. I fondly remember seeing Soulive, Ulu, Deep Banana Blackout, Fat Mama, Schleigho, Uncle Sammy, The Slip, The New Deal, The Disco Biscuits, and some Superjam shows there. Back then, it felt like we were let in on this huge, incredibly powerful secret that no one knew about.

My favorite live Phish experiences were 2/28/03, IT, 6/19/04, 6/20/04, and Magnaball. I was still living in Manhattan during the 2014 Randall’s Island run and I absolutely loved hopping on the downtown 6 train after those incredible shows, and collapsing in my own bed just minutes after the encore ended. The JEMP truck set was my most memorable NYE Phish experience. Not just because I was chasing “Forbin’s” > “Mockingbird” forever, but because it felt like a “full circle” moment for both the band and fans.


© 2018 Mark DeLorenzo (Amar Sastry)
© 2018 Mark DeLorenzo (Amar Sastry)

CD: Phish's music has obviously meant quite a lot to you over the years; what other musicians have influenced you?

A: Louis Armstrong, to me, is the greatest musician to have ever lived. You can hear the past, present, and future of improvised music in everything he’s done, and he has been a huge influence on me from day one. If I could play with 1/10000th of the soul, joy, and depth that Louis possessed, then I’ve lived a successful musical life.

In terms of other influences, a majority of my musical diet has consisted of the work of jazz greats like Miles, Coltrane, Bird, Dizzy, Duke Ellington, Lester Young, Herbie Hancock, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Ella Fitzgerald, Wes Montgomery, Cannonball, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, Hank Mobley, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Smith, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Horace Silver, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy. I’ll stop there but the list goes on for days. I’ve learned countless lessons from obsessively listening to and studying their timeless records, and they’re my biggest influences outside of the Phish/Dead/rock world.

I also have an enormous amount of love for the new generation of composers- improvisers that are pushing the boundaries of music into the stratosphere. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Chris Potter, Nate Smith, Robert Glasper, Brad Mehldau, Cory Henry, Jonathan Kreisberg, Julian Lage, Gilad Hekselman, Lage Lund, Mike Moreno, Kurt Rosenwinkel, The Bad Plus, GoGo Penguin, among many others, have all been massive influences on me.

CD: Is there anything fans of your work can do to help you create more "Anatomy of a Jam" films?

A: My wife gave birth to our first child recently, so juggling all of life’s responsibilities, plus learning how to dad, has been taking up most of my time. But the Phish community has been nothing but honest, patient, and supportive of me, so I can’t ask for much more than that. Thank you so much, Phish.net, for your time and your support.

Yours,

Amar

www.amarguitar.com

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Comments

, comment by tiggerphish
tiggerphish First of all, Congratulations are in order for your experiencing Fatherhood for the first time, that experience is unmatched, imho. I was wondering who your favorite or most influential guitarists have been? Or perhaps a favorite that you've seen live who has "floored you" with how good they were? Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen both did that to me along with Satriani, Steve Vai, Michael Hedges and SRV. My vote for the next Anatomy of a Jam is the AC/DC Bag from 11/21/97 . Thanks Brother.
, comment by MikeinAustin
MikeinAustin Just a shout out to Amar. It’s really helped me understand my guitar better and improve ways to listen to the music more clearly from all genres.
, comment by hetah
hetah Amar is the GOAT
, comment by MrSh0w
MrSh0w shouts to Amar, you da real MVP
, comment by EducateFright
EducateFright I also saw 311 play many times in small clubs when they were coming up in the mid 90s, and it was a blast! Grassroots is still an amazing album. We saw No Doubt open for them at St. Andrew's Hall in downtown Detroit, and we were like "woah woah who is THIS band?" And then literally next week No Doubt was all over MTV, and soon after that, so was 311 with their Down video.
Sounds like you got to see some awesome shows at Wetlands! I used to be a big fan of The Disco Biscuits and I also caught a bunch of their shows in the early 2000s, what a great time that was to see them then, at the top of their game and raging in small clubs.
Anyway, your Anatomy Of A Jam was great, and I especially enjoyed learning all about Nancy!
, comment by brahmin_noodles
brahmin_noodles @tiggerphish said:
First of all, Congratulations are in order for your experiencing Fatherhood for the first time, that experience is unmatched, imho. I was wondering who your favorite or most influential guitarists have been? Or perhaps a favorite that you've seen live who has "floored you" with how good they were? Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen both did that to me along with Satriani, Steve Vai, Michael Hedges and SRV. My vote for the next Anatomy of a Jam is the AC/DC Bag from 11/21/97 . Thanks Brother.
Thank you! I'm a huge of each of the guitarists you mentioned and I learned a lot of their licks/songs/solos back in the day (except for Michael Hedges, I couldn't come close to figuring out how he did his wizardry).

The one guitar player that knocks me out every time I see him live is Bill Frisell. He's a fearless improviser that elevates any band he's playing with.

Besides Trey & Bill, my favorite living guitarists are: Robben Ford, Jimmy Herring, Derek Trucks, Oz Noy, & John Scofield.

I get a lot of requests for the 11/21/97 Bag, I'm definitely considering it!
, comment by SANITY79
SANITY79 Just wanted to Thank you Amar for your outstanding presentations from The Anatomy of a Jam Videos and all your different instructional videos on how to play like Trey or play a certain song etc. They are all so informative and broken down into sections especially on The Anatomy videos. How you actually dig deep into the history of the song and its origins. Its amazing how you pick up on all the cues from each band member playing a song or a jam and also engaging in a total musical conversation with each other. Its spot on! I know they do it often but to have you explain each members instruments what notes or key they are playing in and what there emphasizing just blows me away! You are extremely talented my friend I could go on and on about why I love your videos. Just wanted to Thank you again and had one question for you. I think it was this past Fall tour you made some videos with reviews of each show. I thought they were spot on and told it like is no B.S., Good or Bad your were honest with them and heartfelt. I looked forwad to each one as they came out. But its seems you stopped doing them and I couldn't find the previous ones you had done. My question is did you stop making them? If so how come? Did some Phans give you negative feedback for pointing out miscues or flubs etc? I thought you were brilliant and spoke about them in a very respectful manner. I know you love this band as much as we all do. Thanks so much Amar!!!
, comment by SFuzzy
SFuzzy I used to shit on YouTube creators a lot. Mostly because as a teacher, the main content I see my students looking at is other people playing video games, which never made sense to me. This is one of the channels that completely changed my mind on YouTube as a creative forum. The Went Gin video completely blew my mind. So happy that we have Amar regularly putting out this content for us.
, comment by brb2323
brb2323 Thank you Amar! Your dissections of these great jams along with history and other tidbits is outstanding work. Much appreciated. Some more jams that might be worthy:
Chicago Simple, IT 46 Days, Bakers Dozen Mike’s, Big Cypress Sand>Quadrophonic.
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