Exuberant, heart-felt, life affirming; the presence and impact of Zoe Rahman’s band is what I left with yesterday afternoon. No need to scoop up the merchandise in my case as I’ve been enjoying the Kindred Spirits CD, but a few hardened gig goers were spotted handing over the folding stuff to their own surprise (you know who you are!). The quality of the band and the musical territory should have been no surprise – the blending of her own Bengali/ English/ Irish cultural inheritance is well trailed and evident in the material on the CD from with much of the repertoire in the gig was drawn; arrangements of melodies by Rabindranath Tagore, traditional Irish Melodies and her own originals. From the first rhythmic push of the McCoy Tyner -ish left hand chords that launched ‘Down to Earth’ and the urgent rolling entrance of Gene Calderazzo’s drums, welcomed with big grin from Zoe, the energy was through the roof. The band live and present added a whole other dimension. It wasn’t just me who leaned forward on my seat. There’s something dance like about the themes on the driving trio numbers . Modal sounding tunes with tricky rhythms and meters underneath them. It all feels totally natural and joyful. A thread through the gig was the combination of piano and drums with the propulsive bass playing of Davide Mantovani. Friday 13th, a composition by Zoe’s one time teacher Joanne Brackeen, had the bass and the left hand doubling a little figure payed against monkish phrases and a stop start scatter gun momentum gave a little window into where the jazz instincts lie, added to by the openers in the second set with more rhythmic interplay, crashing block chords and fizzing runs from the right hand. I wanted to hear more from the trio. Not that the sections with Idris Rahman on clarinet and tenor weren’t equally compelling. The lyrical, lament like ballads and swirling Bengali melodies took us to different places interspersed with disarmingly frank, personal and playful banter from the leader. The whoops and shouts for more at the end were more than the usual end of gig rituals. We had all felt it.
Zoe Rahman Quartet, Komedia, Bath Festival, Sunday 3rd June