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Saturday 6 September 2014

Jazz Club...Nice: Arun Ghosh (Review By Paul)

This is the first (and probably only) Jazz review we will do so here goes nothing:

Arun Ghosh – Wall 2 Wall Jazz Festival, Abergavenny Castle

In a change from my usual musical taste CMH and I ventured to the picturesque market town of Abergavenny and the opportunity to soak up a bit of late summer sun at the Wall 2 Wall Jazz Festival. Our interest had been piqued by the headliner, Manchester born Arun Ghosh, after CMH had picked up his quite exquisite latest album, A South Asian Suite following a chance hearing of his work on Radio 3. This album is quite simply brilliant, with jazz fused with folk, hip hop, rock and a myriad of Eastern flavours.

Anyway, we purchased our tickets (£15 for the afternoon – bargain) on-line and headed to the castle on a lovely Sunday afternoon. The Wall 2 Wall Festival is spread across Abergavenny throughout the weekend with numerous events in several locations. It is an admirable idea although the turn-out suggested that a little more publicity would be a good idea. Talking to a close family friend at the event it also sounded like a little bit more investment in some of the infrastructure might about be a good idea but we’ll park that for now!)

Abergavenny Castle is a delightful ruin on the edge of the town and the layout was simple. A large marquee hosted the musicians with a small stage at one end. The rest of the area was divided into food and drink outlets and seating areas. Very civilised. Upon arrival I was very pleased to see the presence of the Tudor Brewery, who I last encountered several times at last year’s Steelhouse Festival. A pint of Sugarloaf (one of the three ales named after the mountains that surround Abergavenny) and I was a happy man as we settled down to watch the Tony O’Malley Trio play some very pleasant jazz for an hour. The trio were great fun, playing some covers and some original pieces and as you would expect, demonstrating a very high level of musicianship. Bassist Yolanda Charles deserves a particular mention for some of her impressive picking. O’Malley is no slouch, and a look at his Wiki page tells you why. A former member of 10CC amongst numerous other credits with several albums to his name including a live album recorded at the legendary Ronnie Scott Club in London. 8/10

After a move to soak up the last rays of summer (and a pint of Skirrid ale along with a tidy burger from local suppliers Morgans) it was time for the main event, The Arun Ghosh Quintet. Opening with Aurora from his first album, 2008’s Northern Namaste, the small but enthusiastic audience were immediately entranced by the sheer quality of the whole quintet. Chris Williams is entrancing on the Saxophone, combining with the excellent Yazz Ahmed on trumpet to allow Ghosh’s rock n’ roll style clarinet delivery to come to the fore. Ably supported by rhythm section comprising of Abrar Hafiz on driving bass and the breath taking skills of Na Masuda on Taiko drums, Ghosh’s style truly is more on the rock side of the jazz genre, with wild arm and hand expressions encouraging the other members to increase or decrease volume, tempo and emotion. Lal Qui’ah (The Red Fort),(from his second release Primal Odyssey) followed before The River Song, the sole track from the latest album enchanted the audience with its simple delivery. Caliban’s Revenge was next, with an interesting background story from Arun about its origin. Apparently, it was written for Pete Postlethwaite, the legendary actor, who wanted music to support his role in The Tempest. Ghosh’s instruction from Postlethwaite? Make it sound like The Who! And yes, it really did have that element to it, although Masuda refrained from any Moonesque shenanigans!

A cover of the Velvet Underground’s Venus in Furs maintained the rock element of the hour long set, with the music swirling and sweeping over you as it ebbed and flowed on its course. Each musician plays a full part, with the brass players given ample opportunity to display their talents. Ghosh remains the focal point throughout though, exhorting and writhing, gyrating and grooving as he supplied sublime clarinet. Closing with Come Closer, Arun Ghosh and crew thoroughly deserved the standing ovation that he received. Speaking to him afterwards, I was struck (as I had all the way through) how humble and pleasant he is. During the set, he was engaging, telling stories of his songs and displaying a humour some might say can be missing from all genres of music. I found the whole afternoon hugely entertaining and for something completely different highly recommended. 10/10

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