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Zoe Rahman – Wiltshire Music Centre, March 3

March 4, 2012

The kind of evening that makes you feel good about the future of jazz. A young (very) leader developing a distinctive musical identity before your eyes, a superb venue, and a big, appreciative crowd.

The venue – the rather wonderful Wiltshire Music Centre – is a little out of the way, and that adds to the atmosphere compared with places where we are (relatively) spoiled for jazz like Bristol. Cheryl Morgan has reviewed the gig here, and the Jazz Mann describes an earlier date on this new CD tour at length – (pretty much the same set, different bass player).

What fascinates is how the band is drawing in new ingredients and jazz absorbs them so naturally, as jazz absorbs most anything if done well. So we had the familiar mix from earlier recorded work and touring. There was a taste of Abdullah Ibrahim to start, some Joanne Brackeen, a nice touch of Ellington from the Far East Suite, and plenty of self-penned compositions. The presentation mixed trio numbers, some superb solo piano and tunes augmented by brother Idris’ bright-toned and somehow world-music-inflected clarinet and (the Ellington) more conventionally jazzy tenor sax sound.

But also…   as on the new recording, there are tunes inspired by as well as by Tagore and by Rahman’s Irish connections on one side of her family – as well as work referencing links between Tagore and Irish music which were new to me. In short, a unique and memorable blend.

If that sounds like a lot to digest, it simply manifested as two hours of wholly absorbing and enjoyable music. And two CDs sold to three people, as we all wanted to hear more, I think. Can’t wait to see what Rahman does next – it would be great to see what she might do with a sextet, a la Kit Downes’ last recording, for instance…

Incidentally, I notice there is a Tagore festival down at Dartington at Easter. with a fair bit of music. As well as Zoe and Idris Rahman in duo, they have programmed Andy Sheppard and Kuljit Bhamra and Arun Gosh, as well as a good deal of Indian music. Looks like a fascinating weekend.

Next: the enticing prospect of Damon Brown’s Ugetsu at Colston on Tuesday – the latest Ian Storror promotion there – (previews here and here). Could be a busy week, as Get the Blessing are launching their new album at Arnolfini a couple of days later (CORRECTION – a week ahead there: it is on Thurs 15th) , and we are booked to hear the peerless Paul Lewis at St George’s the day after. The musical year is picking up rather nicely…

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