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Preview – Zoe Rahman and Jay Phelps

May 28, 2017

Much of the best music at this year’s Bristol jazz festival came off in Colston Hall’s smaller space, The Lantern, where a clutch of our best contemporary groups did their thing – the quality was confirmed when two of those sets, from Jasper Hoiby’s Fellow Creatures and Yazz Ahmad were aired on Radio 3.

There’s a double bill in the same venue next weekend which would have added even more lustre to the festival but is now a mouth-watering prospect as a free-standing event.

Pianist Zoe Rahman has had some fine appearances in these parts – she contributed crucially to a performance of Duke Ellington’s sacred concert music at the first Bristol festival four years ago, and I have great memories of an energised trio set at Wiltshire Music Centre a little more recently.

She hasn’t been seen playing her own stuff quite so much lately, having been touring extensively with Courtney Pine – as you’ll know if you caught their recent duo gig at St George’s. So it will be excellent to hear her play solo piano again. Her solo CD release from last year blends her own tunes with influences from Bengali music, Ellington and Abdullah Ibrahim. Live her playing should be as rewarding as one of the other standout festival sets, the solo excursion from Jason Rebello.

Here’s a lovely sample of her presence and poise.

But that’s only half the evening. The programme also includes expatriate Canadian, former Tomorrow’s Warrior and founder-member of Empirical, trumpeter Jay Phelps. He’s been travelling extensively, and working up to a new recording which is about to launch. Not sure what to expect from the music, although this excellent interview on LondonJazz gives some clues. As he says there, “I like playing creative music; to people who know why they are there and at least respect the fact that someone is pouring their heart and soul out to them.” His quartet, including the brilliant Mark Lewandowski on bass (as seen at The Fringe the other week), John Scott on drums, and up and coming piano star Rick Simpson are of like mind. And that’s why one goes to jazz gigs, isn’t it?

Brief taster here…


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