221

Arun Ghosh: Arun Ghosh: Primal Odyssey

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Arun Ghosh: Arun Ghosh: Primal Odyssey Arun Ghosh

Primal Odyssey

Camoci Records

2011

There you are, waiting for the next Indo-Jazz album to arrive, and then two come along at the same time. October 2011 has already seen the release of Grand Union Orchestra's If Paradise (Red Gold), and now here comes clarinetist Arun Ghosh's Primal Odyssey.

It has been a long wait too, in Britain anyway, particularly for Indo-Jazz with a Bengali flavor—since Ghosh's debut set, Northern Namaste (Camoci), and pianist Zoe Rahman and her reeds-playing brother, Zoe & Idris Rahman's Where Rivers Meet (Manushi), both released in 2008.

Idris Rahman is heard again on Primal Odyssey, but this time mostly on tenor saxophone, rather than the clarinet he played on Where Rivers Meet. Along with Ghosh and bass clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings, Rahman forms the three-reed frontline on the album, powered—and powered is the word—by acoustic and electric bassist Liran Donin and drummer Pat Illingworth.

Bengali music is as multifaceted as that of any culture, but is probably best known in the west for its exquisite ballads and love songs, as uplifting to regard as flowers. That was the strand which the Rahmans celebrated on Where Rivers Meet and which provides some of the exalted moments on Grand Union's If Paradise.

Ghosh's vision for this project, however, is altogether darker and in-your-face. And that goes for his taste in artwork as much as his direction in the music. There is a double-page spead visual in the fold-out booklet accompanying Primal Odyssey, referencing the opening track, "Caliban's Revenge." Turn it upside down, like one of those trick paintings loved by the Victorians, and it becomes crudely gynaecological. Lucian Freud meets Francis Bacon.


Arun Ghosh

But it is Ghosh's music that concerns us here: turbulent, fired-up, rippling with sinew and driven by thick, bottom-heavy ostinatos. Only two tracks, the wistful "Eros" and pastoral "Nocturne (Chandra Dhun)," inhabit a gentler arena. For the rest, the music—all of it written by Ghosh—is positively urban, both in the mix of heritages the word implies in 2011 and in the vibe and beat-centricity of the music. It is thrilling stuff; rough sex for the ears.

The three reed frontline was in part modeled, says Ghosh, on Indian shenai master Bismillah Khan's classic ensemble, which was composed of three shenai and percussion. But there the similarity ends, for Khan's delicate and mellifluous sound is not also replicated. Ghosh's other model was saxophonist Ornette Coleman's chord-less quartet. And that—along with bassist Charles Mingus' confrontational aesthetic—is closer to the money.

Bismillah Khan's legacy is, perhaps, directly alluded to on "Lal Qil'ah (The Red Fort)." In 1947, it was Khan's shenai which rang out from the ramparts of Delhi's Red Fort as the Union Jack was lowered and independent India's own flag raised. Ghosh's "Lal Qil'ah," however, is the most swaggering track on a notably vigorous set. (If you want to hear some classic, three-shenai Khan, the two-CD compilation, The Shenai's Humble Master, released on Saregama in 2007, is a rewarding port of call).

All three reed players get to solo—Rahman's tenor cooks on "Unravel" and "Headrush"—but Ghosh is the main man, framed by Rahman and Hutching's bass register riffs and drones. Drummer Illingworth, recently heard on saxophonist Jan Kopinski's funk/free improv group, Reflektor's Mirrors (33 Jazz, 2011), is, as ever, powerful without being overbearing, and bassist Donin locks right in.

A tremendous album. Just don't show the inner sleeve to anyone of a nervous disposition.

Tracks: Caliban's Revenge; Unravel; Yerma; Lal Qil'ah (The Red Fort); Headrush; Intifada; Eros; Damascus; Icarus; Nocturne (Chandra Dhun).

Personnel: Arun Ghosh: clarinet; Idris Rahman: saxophone (1-9), clarinet (10); Shabaka Hutchings: bass clarinet; Liran Donin: double-bass (1-3, 5-7, 10), electric bass (4, 8, 9); Pat Illingworth: drums.

Photo Credit

Adriano Adewale

Title: Arun Ghosh: Primal Odyssey | Year Released: 2011


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Motel Shot: Expanded Edition Extended Analysis Motel Shot: Expanded Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: July 16, 2017
Read Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe  Edition Extended Analysis Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th...
by Doug Collette
Published: May 27, 2017
Read Grateful Dead: Cornell '77 Extended Analysis Grateful Dead: Cornell '77
by Doug Collette
Published: May 6, 2017
Read "King Crimson: Radical Action (To Unseat The Hold of Monkey Mind)" Extended Analysis King Crimson: Radical Action (To Unseat The Hold of Monkey...
by John Kelman
Published: September 10, 2016
Read "Jim Ridl: Door in a Field V2, Songs of the Green River" Extended Analysis Jim Ridl: Door in a Field V2, Songs of the Green River
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: October 17, 2016
Read "Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960" Extended Analysis Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 9, 2017
Read "Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight" Extended Analysis Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: Les Deux Versants Se Regardent" Extended Analysis Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: Les Deux Versants Se...
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 10, 2016
Read "Various Artists: Yugoslavian Space Program" Extended Analysis Various Artists: Yugoslavian Space Program
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: October 29, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.