Rahman ranges east and west
British Bengali pianist Zoe Rahman tours the UK in March following the release of her album Kindred Spirits - a blend of McCoy Tyner style modalism, subcontinental raga and touches of Irish folk inspired by her mother's Hibernian origins.
She appears with her quartet featuring her brother Idris Rahman (cl), Davide Mantovani (b) and Gene Calderazzo (d) at Western Hotel St Ives, 01736 798061 (6 March), Queen's Theatre Gallery Barnstaple, 01271 324242 (7), Forest Arts Centre New Milton, 01425 612393 (10), Warwick Arts Centre Studio, Coventry, 0247624524 (15) and Sage Gateshead, 0191 4434661 (25).
Kindred Spirits, reviewed in Jazz Journal March 2012 issue:
(1) Down To Earth; (3) Conversation With Nellie; (4) Maya; Forbiddance/My Heart Dances, Like A Peacock, It Dances; (2) Butlers Of Glen Avenue; (1) Outside In; (5) Imagination; (1) Rise Above; Fly In The Ointment; Contusion (51.08)
(1) Zoe Rahman (p); Oli Hayhurst (b); Gene Caldarazzo (d). UK, 28 February and 1 March 2011. (2) as (1) but Rahman on harmonium. (3) as (1) but add Courtney Pine (f). (4) as (1) but add Idris Rahman (cl). (5) as (4) but Idris Rahman on bcl.
This, arguably Rahman's best album yet, mainly consists of her own compositions from the last couple of years, but she has also included songs by Rabindranath Tagore … plus one, Contusion, by Stevie Wonder and a folk piece, The Butlers of Glen Avenue. Tagore was a Nobel Laureate revered for his poetry and art, but he was also a fine musician. The 150th anniversary of his birth occurred in 2011, a year in which Rahman's trio toured Ireland, her mother's ancestral country. Tagore had links with Ireland, and Forbiddance was based on the traditional Irish tune, Go Where Glory Waits Thee.
Bringing together Irish influences and those from her father's Bengali traditions, she has produced a CD full of music that is always vibrant, whether the prevailing mood of any particular tune is wistful, joyful, melancholic, fierce, funky, meditative, or lyrical. This is not, though, a fusion or cross-over product: the various influences sometimes bubble to the surface but are mostly fully absorbed into the mix, enhancing rather than diluting the jazz base.
Zoe's brother, Idris, contributes fruitfully on four numbers. His sound on the clarinet, particularly in the lower register, is very individual and affecting. In the opening passage of Forbiddance he strongly yet subtly evokes Irish landscapes before the band launches into a characteristically Indian melodic and rhythmic section. Soon, Idris cuts loose with a solo in the top register which reminds us of the influence that Indian music had on some of the exponents of the 1960s New Thing, not least John Coltrane. Butlers gets a lively workout that would enhance the craic in any venue.
The range of Rahman's piano playing is given full rein, from the happy, agile, dancing figures of Down To Earth, through the turbulent intensity of Outside In and the ominous Imagination and Rise Above, which both recall the influence of Indian culture on John and Alice Coltrane, to the tumbling exuberance of Contusion.
- Barry Witherden
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