Tron Theatre, 24th June 2010
The band Arun Ghosh brought to the Tron on Thursday night mixed elements of Indian music with jazz, but did so in such a way that the two components blended perfectly. It wasn’t a case of “that was an Indian bit, now here’s a jazz bit”. Overall it had a distinctive sound all of its own, even if occasional passages were reminiscent of other groups. At times we got hints of Ivo Papasov (clarinet playing Eastern-sounding melodies), Polar Bear (interweaving horn lines), or the John Coltrane Quartet (swaying medium-paced grooves reminiscent of those laid down by Tyner and Jones), but mainly they just sounded like themselves.
Ghosh himself was very much the main soloist. I’d have liked to hear a bit more from pianist Kishon Khan or tenor player Idris Rahman, who largely concentrated on filling in the gaps between Ghosh’s clarinet lines and the rhythm section (double bass, drums, and tabla). The few solos they did take were enjoyable, and Rahman got an interesting dark tone from his tenor. However, if the band had simply played a string of solos on each number they might have sounded more like just another jazz group.
They mainly played Ghosh’s own compositions, with the exception of a piece of Indian film music, an arrangement of a Bengali folk tune and, for an encore, the Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows”. If I’d one quibble, it was with the ordering of the set. The section before the interval was much longer than the second one and, it seemed to me, a bit less varied in its arrangements. A lot of tunes started with Ghosh playing unaccompanied (or minimally accompanied) clarinet for a while, before being joined by piano and saxophone, with the rhythm section kicking in a few minutes after that. But I’m nit-picking: I alway really enjoy it when I go along to hear musicians I know nothing about and they turn out to be very good. This was one of those nights.