Trilok Gurtu: One Thought Away

The percussionist produces perhaps his most compelling session to date, mixing jazz with world music, Asian pop and contemporary electronics

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In the 1990s, when I was lucky enough to promote jazz concerts for the University of Brighton, I invited the painter and improvising musician Alan Davie to the university’s Sallis Benney Theatre on Brighton’s Grand Parade, to hear a concert featuring Trilok Gurtu in a band which had the Bulgarian kaval virtuoso Theodosii Spassov on board.

Davie loved Spassov’s playing, as I knew he would. But it was Gurtu who really turned Davie’s head. I remember his telling the drummer, percussionist and vocalist “You must be the greatest drummer and percussionist ever! How on earth do you manage to keep all that stuff you play together?!”

How indeed? Over the years, I’ve marvelled at Gurtu in a variety of contexts, including a great gig with Joe Zawinul at the North Sea Jazz Festival. But if, on Gurtu’s own albums, I always find certain tracks of lasting interest – e.g., Living Magic from 1991 or Massical from 2009, both of which have striking contributions from Jan Garbarek – it would be hard for me to say which Gurtu releases have held my attention completely, from first note to last. Until now, that is.

One Thought Away is a tour-de-force for Gurtu as both poet of multi-layered, sometimes challenging sound, and driving master of polyrhythm, able to mix effortlessly techniques drawn from classical Indian music (particularly tabla drums), jazz, various so-called “ ethnic” or “world” musics, Asian pop and contemporary electronics. As those who have seen him live will know, Gurtu can even bring a bucket of water into the mix, to potent effect.

There are consequential contributions here from, e.g., Robert Miles (kyb, programming) and Carlo Cantini (kyb) as well as vocals from sometime Zawinul associate Sabine Kabongo and the Indian Devik Pandit. Ultimately, however, this is Gurtu’s show, its densely woven yet ascensional, suite-based whole recalling (in its own contemporary mode) the excitement of a Weather Report piece like Nubian Sundance from Mysterious Traveller. Pumping and flowing, meditative and spiritual, this is richly – and completely – compelling music.

Discography
(1) No Fear Suite Pts 1-4; (2) Gluten Free Song; (3) Chalo Chalo Chalo Pts 1-3; (4) Don’t Shoot The Drummer; (3) Don’t Follow Your Shadow; One Thought Away; (4) One Rhythm; (5) Behind The Screen;(2) So Happy (40.55)
Gurtu (d, pc, v, kyb, elb, elec) with (1) Robert Miles (kyb, elb, programming). (2) Sabine Kabongo (v); Carlo Cantini (kyb); James Hallawell (elb). (3) as (2) but Kabongo & Hallawell out. (4) as (1) but Miles out. (5) as (3) plus Devik Pandit (v). Mantua, August-October 2022.
Jazzline D 77119