- The Stride
- Ha Gente Aqui
- Friday 13th
- Tuang Guru
- Muchhe Jaoa Dinguli
- Harlem Blues
- Egyptian Tune Dance
- Last Note
Zoe Rahman - Piano
Oli Hayhurst - Double bass
Gene Calderazzo - Drums
Idris Rahman - Clarinet (tracks 2, 5)
I was disappointed by Zoe Rahman's previous album, Where Rivers Meet, which concentrated on music that Zoe learned from her Bengali father. It seemed to lean too far towards Indian folk music and not enough on jazz. However, the balance is corrected on this new CD, Zoe's first live album, recorded in April 2007 at the Pizza Express in London's Soho. Her brother, clarinettist Idris, is again present on ethnic-sounding numbers but there are only two of these. The rest of the tunes are compositions by jazz pianists, including two each by Abdullah Ibrahim and Joanne Brackeen (who was one of Zoe's teachers), one by Phineas Newborn, and one by Zoe herself.
Zoe comes across as a very gutsy piano player, and it is fascinating to follow her as she explores different tunes. Sometimes she gets fixed on a particular phrase; at other times she veers close to free improvisation or ignores bar-lines, following wherever her fancy leads. Her frequent use of the sustaining pedal and rolling chords may remind the listener of McCoy Tyner. The temperature is kept sizzling by the strong support she receives from bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Gene Calderazzo.
The album opens as it means to go on: with Zoe introducing Abdullah Ibrahim's
The Stride with swirling piano figures which develop into a
forceful ostinato. Ha Gente Aqui fades in, introducing the
clarinet of Idris Rahman in a rather folksy theme, with Zoe adding
a comparatively restrained solo.
Joanne Brackeen's Friday 13th is more angular, with unexpected pauses
between episodes of straightforward swinging. Calderazzo incites Zoe
in her daring. Then it's back to Abdullah Ibrahim for another composition:
the rather mystical Tuang Guru, which Zoe also treats assertively.
Idris Rahman returns for Muchhe Jaoa Dinguli, which allows
for some oriental tranquility in the midst of a primarily extrovert
Phineas Newborn's Harlem Blues is perhaps my favourite track on the album. After another of Zoe's rumbling introductions, it is surprisingly funky, with hints of gospel, and includes a stunningly propulsive drum solo from Gene Calderazzo. Joanne Brackeen's Egyptian Tune Dance returns us to dislocation and the excitingly unexpected. Oli Hayhurst's bass leads us into the final number, Last Note, where the piano seems tentative and exploratory, often puckish.
This is by no means easy listening: indeed, you need to stay alert to get the most out of this album. If you do, you will almost certainly find it very rewarding listening.