Born in Chichester to an English mother and a Bengali father, Zoe Rahman is a classically-trained pianist who studied jazz performance on a sholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA. Zoe released her first album, "The Cynic", in 2001 and has since gone on to establish herself as one of the brightest stars on the contemporary jazz scene. Her second album, "Melting Pot", was shortlisted for the prestigious Mercury Prize in 2006 and she won a MOBO Award (Best Jazz Act) in 2012 for her fifth album, "Kindred Spirits". A recent highly successful collaboration with sax/clarinet/flute maestro Courtney Pine led to a duet album, "Song (The Ballad Book)", and an extensive UK tour in the first half of 2015.
The Zoe Rahman Trio played Edinburgh's Festival Theatre Studio on 24th July 2015, during the city's annual Jazz and Blues Festival. The current trio sees Zoe Rahman's vibrant and highly individual piano talents supported by a world-class rhythm section consisting of American drummer Gene Calderazzo and double bassist Alec Dankworth (son of Cleo Laine and the late Sir John Dankworth).
Following the warmest of welcomes onto the stage on an unpredictable summer's evening in Edinburgh (Zoe Rahman would later remark cheerfully that the sounds of rain pattering on the roof and the distant squawking of seagulls made this feel like an outdoor gig indoors…….), the trio launched into the opening tune, the rhythmic and bluesy "Down To Earth", which featured towering piano chords and the first in a series of scintillating and beautifully-constructed piano solos, peppered with percussive attack, flowing runs and passages of delicate restraint. The elegant "Forbiddance/My Heart Dances Like A Peacock, It Dances" explored Zoe Rahman's Bengali roots and segued nicely into the joyously swinging and lilting "Butlers of Glen Avenue", which was an affectionate nod in the direction of her Irish grandmother.
The two-hour long set was studded with gems, mixing Zoe's own inventive compositions with striking interpretations of pieces by artists as diverse as Thelonious Monk, Abdullah Ibrahim and Roy Hargrove and one number which appeared to be constructed around the key motif in the classic song "These Foolish Things".
The highlights just kept on coming. "The Stride" offered hard swinging bebop, while "Red Squirrel" began with pounding piano chords underpinned by thundering bass lines and crashing cymbals and provided a platform for some rollicking piano breaks. In contrast, the graceful intro of "Cherry" ushered in a swinging, gospel-infused blues. The new compositions, "On The Road", "Fast Asleep" and a couple of as yet untitled tunes, all served to whet the appetite for the next album.
Zoe Rahman's imaginative and exuberant playing required great intuition and skill on the part of the rhythm section. Gene Calderazzo and Alec Dankworth also took opportunities to contribute a series of memorable solos themselves, coaxed along by piano fills and appreciative smiles and nods from Zoe Rahman. She really does have the most infectious of smiles!
The chemistry and rapport between the three musicians and their evident love of playing were remarkable and the trio delivered a show which was totally absorbing and hugely enjoyable from start to finish. Zoe Rahman underlined her reputation as both an exceptional musician, composer and band-leader and a spellbinding performer.
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