Proms at Sage Gateshead: Yazz Ahmed and Arun Ghosh

First half
Arun Ghosh (Clarinet)
Faye MacCalman (Tenor Saxophone)
Jamil Sheriff (Piano)
John Pope (Bass Guitar)
Dave Walsh (Drums)

Second Half
Yazz Ahmed (Trumpet)
Ralph Wild (Vibraphone)
David Manington (Double Bass)
Martin France (Drums)

Reviewed by: Chris Caspell

Reviewed: 21 July, 2023
Venue: Sage Gateshead, Sage Two

The Late-Night Prom at the Sage Gateshead was an enchanting musical journey that delved into the rich musical heritage of the Middle East, presented by two talented artists making their Proms debut. Arun Ghosh and Yazz Ahmed, both masters of their craft, delivered an unforgettable performance that captivated the audience from start to finish.

The ambiance was an integral part of the overall experience as the concert hall was creatively transformed into a warm and intimate setting reminiscent of a jazz club. Alongside the traditional raked seating familiar to concertgoers, small tables and chairs were strategically arranged throughout the venue, providing a relaxed and cosy atmosphere. This setup allowed the audience to sit comfortably, enjoy their drinks, and immerse themselves in the music while fostering a sense of closeness with the performers.

The first half of the Prom belonged to Arun Ghosh and his band. Ghosh, a British-Asian clarinettist, composer, and bandleader, hails from Bolton and honed his skills within Manchester’s vibrant jazz scene. His most recent album, “Secluded in Light,” composed and recorded during the Covid-19 lockdown, formed the foundation of tonight’s program, although the evening was sprinkled with other delightful compositions as well.

Arun Ghosh and his band wove a passionate sound that harmoniously blended soaring melodies, hypnotic rhythms, and transcendental textures. The influence of Eastern melodies and harmonies was evident throughout the jazz set, adding a distinct and captivating flavour to their music. The audience was eager to participate in the up-tempo piece “Hanji!,” responding with gusto to the call-and-response by shouting “Hanji!” upon hearing a specific musical phrase.

One of the standout moments of the evening was Ghosh’s heartfelt performance of Mark Knofler’s “Going Home,” (Theme of the Local Hero). Dedicated to his late uncle, this solo clarinet rendition touched the hearts of everyone present, leaving Ghosh at his most vulnerable in this most emotive music.

The collaboration between the Prom and the Masala Festival brought an enthusiastic crowd of Festival supporters to the audience, enhancing the vibrant atmosphere and shared appreciation for the cross-cultural musical celebration.

In the second half, the stage belonged to the British-Bahraini trumpet and flugelhorn virtuoso, Yazz Ahmed. Blurring the lines between jazz and electronic soundscapes, Ahmed’s music has been aptly described as “psychedelic Arabic jazz.” Her innovative approach to music earned her the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Innovation in 2020.

Though Yazz Ahmed’s set consisted of only four pieces, each one was a mesmerizing and sophisticated journey through captivating musical landscapes. Most notable was her interaction with vibraphone player, Ralph Wyld, that showed the seamless chemistry between the two musicians.

This Late-Night Prom at the Sage Gateshead was a remarkable celebration of musical diversity and talent. Arun Ghosh and Yazz Ahmed, with their distinctive styles and influences, delivered a performance that will be etched in the memories of the audience for years to come. The fusion of Middle Eastern musical heritage with jazz and electronic elements created an unforgettable experience that left the audience awestruck and inspired. This evening truly proved that music knows no boundaries and can connect people across cultures and backgrounds.

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