In the decades since jazz ceased to be popular dance music, many of its hybrids invite a certain attentive seriousness in live performances as well as in recordings. Even with relaxed performers and in informal settings, it sometimes seems that ‘entertainment’ isn’t thought to be entirely compatible with serious musicianship or audience appreciation. The Arun Ghosh Band put paid to that, in a performance that was wildly engaging, musically fascinating and sheer fun.
Arun himself appears to be on a mission to restore the standing of the clarinet in jazz, in the most effective way possible: by demonstrating that wonderful instrument’s range, expressiveness and tonal colours; and by showing us that in the right hands, it can deliver melodic lines of a sinuousness like no other. The revelation was how powerful and passionate it can sound, too.
The interplay between Arun and alto player Chris Williams seemed at times to be telepathic. Whether playing in unison, contrasting lines or trading solos, the tonal and harmonic combinations were a highlight of the gig—and the playing was superb. Although much of the evening was devoted to high-energy, up-tempo numbers, they both delivered terrific slow pieces, too, right down to the level of a delicate hush. And when Chris Williams cut loose, the group sound was something to be reckoned with.
Pianoless rhythm sections can sometimes be harmonically under-powered, but there was no risk of that. Guitar, bass and drums created a foundation for clarinet and alto that somehow managed to combine their clearly audible individual voices—(much abetted by the quality of the sound mix)—with a vivid, pulsating and-all-but-seamless backdrop to the drama delivered by Arun and Chris. Shirley Tetteh’s guitar was a vital presence—and like all the best rhythm guitarists, she was distinctive and indispensible. She didn’t require her few solo bursts in order to demonstrate tasteful musicianship. Anyone who might have thought that electric bass is no substitute for double bass was in for a surprise: Liran Donin did more than put it through it paces: this was electric playing in more than the obvious sense; and it fit beautifully with the group sound. Regulars to Wakefield Jazz knew what to expect from drummer Dave Walsh—and he was on top form.
The evening’s performance was considerably more than entertaining—one measure of which was that the shouts were at least the equal of the thunderous applause. And richly deserved.
Arun Ghosh – clarinet
Chris Williams – alto sax
Shirley Tetteh – guitar
Liran Donin – bass
Dave Walsh – drums
© J. Whitman ~ 19.11.2017