CD Review: Arun Ghosh – Primal Odyssey (camoci records)

Posted on October 7, 2011 by

© William Ellis 2011

Although this is Arun Ghosh’s second album, it’s actually his first with a full touring band. Since releasing his critically acclaimed debut Northern Namaste in 2008, Ghosh has built up a great reputation and even featured as cover star for Jazzwise last month. In his Jazzwise interview he revealed that the first album was recorded with the studio in mind – carefully setting the balance between the instruments in exactly the way he had in mind. However, he explained that Primal Odyssey attempts instead to capture the sound of his live performances more successfully.

This album drops the piano and tabla, and strips the sound right back to a solid quintet featuring three horns, double bass and drums – Ghosh on clarinet, Idris Rahman on tenor sax/clarinet, Shabaka Hutchings on bass clarinet, Liran Donin on double/electric bass, and Pat Illingworth on drums. Although the instruments are arguably heavier, and there is a lot of doubling with all the wind frequently playing the rhythms in unison, the sound ultimately feels more intimate and driven.

Many of the tracks on the album are based on plays. Most notable among these is opening piece ‘Caliban’s revenge’, based on the persecuted native character from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which introduces a great jazz riff and works from this to launch Ghosh’s explosive clarinet. ‘lal qil-ah (the red fort)’ is equally memorable and features some great Indian-inspired scales – picking up on the Indo-Jazz feel throughout the album.

In trying to recreate the ‘live sound’ of the band, the album doesn’t have as many relaxed moments as Northern Namaste and is arguably not quite as accessible. However, this doesn’t mean that the pace never slows. The closing track ‘nocturne (chandra dhun)’ is really pretty, with just the clarinets playing in close harmony and the bass clarinet echoing and lazily drifting behind. It’s a definite change in sound for Ghosh, but it’s one that has leapt forward into some fantastic jazz improvisation and will certainly lead to some exciting live performances that I, for one, can’t wait to attend.

Primal Odyssey is due to be released on camoci records on 24th October 2011.

The first live Primal Odyssey preview date is at Rich Mix, London on 23rd Oct 2011. Free entry, 6pm start

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Posted in: Album reviews, Jazz