112

Arun Ghosh: Primal Odyssey

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Clarinetist Arun Ghosh's debut, Northern Namaste (Camoci Records, 2008), signaled the arrival of a significant musician/composer on the UK jazz scene. Blending Indian and western instruments, Ghosh drew 12 musicians from Indian folk and jazz traditions to create something utterly fresh sounding; lyrical and highly melodic, celebratory and swinging, Ghosh's obvious virtuosity on clarinet was a thrilling bonus. Primal Odyssey sees Ghosh head a leaner quintet. Leaner, too, the instrumentation, with the tabla, sitar, harmonium, dhulak, bayan, piano and strings that colored Northern Namaste making way for just three reeds, bass and drums.

Though stripped-down, if anything, Primal Odyssey is more rhythmically pronounced than its predecessor, with bassist Liran Donin and drummer Pat Illingworth's driving grooves prominent in the mix. Ghosh's cauldron of influences still results in a steaming, heady stew; tenor saxophonist Zoe & Idris Rahman and bass clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings combine with Ghosh's clarinet to produce dark, rich folds of sound which conjure the Middle East, the Balkans, the rocking grooves of Gong, the iconoclastic power of a Charles Mingus large ensemble and, in the quieter moments, a very personal lyricism.

Beginning with an irresistible drum pattern, the bustling "Caliban's Revenge" is in the running for best unison riff of the year, and Ghosh eventually peels away with a soaring clarinet solo of liberating energy. Drums and bass inject a sustained Ellingtonian motion into "Unravel," where brass and reeds at times make it easy to forget that this is a quintet, and not a larger ensemble. Rahman, Hutchings, and Ghosh all deliver fired-up solos. And had bandleader Duke Ellington recorded a Palestinian suite, it might have sounded something akin to Ghosh's emotive "Intifada," an urgent composition with repetitive, insistent themes and a wailing, imploring clarinet. "Damascus," on the other hand, has strangely little that is melodically or rhythmically related to the Middle East, but has an enjoyable, brash and gut-hitting energy.

The biggest change, three years on from Northern Namaste, is the more urban visage present in the music. "Headrush" bristles with free-jazz electricity over a rock-inspired bass line, and the charging "Icarus" is even more overtly rock-edged. The CD's shortest, punchiest tune, "Lal Qil'ah (The Red Fort)," draws from the punk end of rock with its churning, war-path bass ostinato, and features sharp solos from Ghosh and Rahman. By way of contrast, "Yerma" has the vibe of a mournful spiritual that could have come from New Orleans by way of Armenia. The gently lyrical "Eros" seduces with clarinets and saxophone floating over a slow, hypnotic rhythm. The beautiful symmetry of this three-pronged frontline fully emerges when drum and bass drop out on the lovely, lullaby-like "Nocturne (Chandra Dhun)."

Primal Odyssey is a wonderful follow-up to Ghosh's highly promising debut. Here is a musician open to all music, and who channels it in the most directly emotional manner. The songwriting is impressive—varied yet cohesive—and the playing visceral, uninhibited and moving. Already a rising star in the UK before this release, with Primal Odyssey Ghosh is surely destined to make the rest of the world sit up and listen as well.

Track Listing: 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.

Title: Primal Odyssey | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Camoci Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Estonian Suite: Live In Tallinn CD/LP/Track Review Estonian Suite: Live In Tallinn
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: November 18, 2017
Read The Princess CD/LP/Track Review The Princess
by Mark Corroto
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Queen City Blues CD/LP/Track Review Queen City Blues
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Latin Lover CD/LP/Track Review Latin Lover
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Reclamation CD/LP/Track Review Reclamation
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Provenance CD/LP/Track Review Provenance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 17, 2017
Read "Wee +3" CD/LP/Track Review Wee +3
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 7, 2016
Read "The Invariant" CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Sektion 1-2" CD/LP/Track Review Sektion 1-2
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 21, 2016
Read "Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin" CD/LP/Track Review Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 23, 2017
Read "Tipico" CD/LP/Track Review Tipico
by James Nadal
Published: January 12, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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

Please support out sponsor