One of the legacies 40 gigs has left me with is a burgeoning love of jazz. Yes, that surprised me too. When I saw the programme for the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival a few months back I was excited. A whole 4 days of jazz in all its glories. I knew there would be gems to be found. I was gifted some Colston Hall vouchers for Christmas and this seemed the perfect way to spend them. I plumped for Arun Ghosh as my entry gig to the festival based partly on price and partly on the blurb, anyone claiming to blend jazz, hip hop, Indian classical, rock, pop and avant-garde music sounded worth checking out.
I wasn’t disappointed. At all. I never knew jazz could sound like this. I never knew clarinets could sound like this. So sexy, so groovy, so soulful, so moving and so versatile. The warmth and love that created this music was evident in every note. When tracks range in influence from Snakebite to Hindu Gods, via the English countryside, love, loss and laughter, you know you are on a journey through the emotional landscape of what it means to be a British outsider in the 21st Century.
Arun and his very talented band played tracks from his new album, “but where are you really from?” (buy it, it is really good). I’d pick a favourite track, but they were all brilliant and ranged in style so much that picking one track wouldn’t do justice to the album or Arun’s talent. Made In England was introduced as a tribute to Parv Bancil, playwright, and its title says it all. Imagine if Bhangra met the Arctic Monkeys and got drunk with the Specials and this might well be the result. It was all the elements of great music blended and fused together in an intoxicating blend. It reminded me of that wonderful time, pre-Brexit, when multicultural Britain was something we celebrated and cherished. Many of us still do I know, but it feels like we need music like this more than ever now. To break down preconceptions and barriers and to Smash Through The Gates of Thought to seal Arun’s own title. Pastoral Sympathy was gorgeous, celebrating the English countryside with shimmering and shining clarinet that was reminiscent of bird song. It gave me the feeling of being sat on a train, staring out of the window, watching England’s green and pleasant land whiz past your eyes. In that hazy, half aware state you get only on trains. Almost hypnotic. It were lush. Punjabi Girl was joyous, so full of energy and love, impossible not to smile at and if I’d been standing there would have been dancing as well. Arun plunged us from that into Love&Laugh&Love&Cry which was such an emotional shift in tone, all life’s possibilities and joys one moment, open and hopeful, into darkness and mourning with a few notes. Love still, but for what has gone, not what is yet to come.
One of this things I adored about 40 gigs were the surprises, the gigs that seemingly came out of nowhere and just made you go “wow, what was that?” that introduced new shapes, colours and textures to my musical lexicon. Arun Ghosh did that tonight. An inventive and playful musician full of heart and humour. If this is jazz, you can count me right in.