Zoe Rahman - Kindred Spirits
(Manushi Records manucd005. CD review by Chris Parker)
Since establishing herself as one of the UK jazz scene's most talented pianists in 2005 with her Mercury-nominated album Melting Pot, Zoe Rahman has steadily consolidated her reputation with a trio (plus guest Idris Rahman) recording from London's Pizza Express (Live, 2007) and a jazz/Bengali music fusion album, Where Rivers Meet.
Kindred Spirits draws on all the musical influences, from straightahead jazz (she cut her teeth in Clark Tracey's 2000s band) to the music she hears when visiting her family in Dhaka, that informed these albums, but adds another strand: Irish traditional music, experienced on Rahman's recent tour of the country that was her maternal grandmother's home.
Add the inspiration drawn from the 150th anniversary of Bengal's most celebrated writer/musician and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, and you have an absorbingly multi-faceted set, beginning with the tumultuously robust 'Down to Earth', in which Rahman strikes sparks off her fiercely interactive rhythm section, bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Gene Calderazzo, and concluding with a characteristically irresistible Stevie Wonder tune, 'Contusion' but, in between, touching bases ranging from Tagore compositions featuring brother Idris's clarinets, Irish folk ('Butlers of Glen Avenue') and even the odd burst of free music ('Outside In'). Rahman, though, is very much her prodigiously gifted self throughout, whether throwing off alternately sparkling and thunderous runs, merging more delicately with her brother or guest Courtney Pine's playing on less overtly jazz-based material, or spinning compelling piano-trio jazz from her own infectiously lively compositions.
A rich confection of what Rahman simply describes as 'tunes that I love playing', Kindred Spirits provides what liner-note writer Julian Joseph accurately terms 'a powerful and fresh portrait of her combined English, Irish and Bengali heritage'.
Kindred Spirits was released on Friday 19th January. Tour Dates include Pizza Express Dean Street on February 6th and 7th.