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India Looking West

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Album Review

Even if this is a topnotch, swinging jazz recording with impeccable arrangements, lively playing, and a healthy spirit of improvisation, there's a sense of disappointment — a promise made by the album title and cover that goes undelivered. Ghose explains all this in his liner notes, saying the source of the album is from the State of Bengal on the East Coast of India, but as the title suggests, there are no sitars, sarods, or tablas. The point must be that an Indian-born pianist can move to the Western Hemisphere and develop a jazz vocabulary as strong as any native. That said, there's plenty of percussive jazz to enjoy here. "Staccato" finds Ghose jumping over a hard-swinging bass and persistent high-hat, playing up-tempo all the way but getting brisker as he goes along; the tune quickly evolves into an all-out jam. "HMG Blues" is a crisp, sparse number that may remind some of Vince Guaraldi, and the title track features a dense drum brush line that approximates locomotion behind Ghose's rolling piano melodies. The rest is a mix of new tunes and well-read standards including "In a Sentimental Mood" (played in an ultra-melancholy style with cello accompaniment), "There Is No Greater Love," and "Night and Day." It's too bad the record label spent all this care in creating a lovely cover and neglected to tell us who the rest of the trio is.

India Looking West, Sai Ghose Trio
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