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Jazz Cafe - London

You never know quite what you'll get with Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu. Of course, there are fabulous sounds and rhythms, but the context is always new. At last year's Womad festival, he was fronting a loud, multicultural fusion band; recent projects have seen him team up with DJ Robert Miles and Sting.

Tonight's gig, like his new album Arkeology, is a collaboration with the Arke String Quartet, an Italian group with double bass instead of cello. This is a plus, since it means that bassist Stefano Dall'ora can team up with Gurtu's hybrid drum kit: more western on the floor, but with tablas on the top. These accomplished players mesh and weave in the best 20th-century manner, and violinist Valentino Corvino is a passionate soloist. Their tunes imply Indian, Balkan and Celtic rhythms, in asymmetric time signatures that suit Gurtu down to the last demisemiquaver: he flies around the six-, seven- and 14-beat patterns.

On record, the sound is warm and pleasing. Played live, it's hotter and spicier. Arke play with all the fire of a jazz group without losing the emotional expressiveness of strings; there are hints of the Mahavishnu and Penguin Cafe Orchestras. However, this collaboration has a charm and character all its own, typified by compositions such as the sprightly, reel-like Taranta Suite, the moody Fes and Gurtu's engaging Balahto, which has a brief reprise at the end of a well-deserved encore.