THE ZOE Rahman Trio, an ideal unguent at the end of a long day, performed two mesmeric sets at the Jerome Hynes theatre at Wexford Opera House on Saturday, the first opportunity for audiences in the South East to witness the spellbinding playing of the eponymous group leader and pianist extraordinaire.
You never know what you are going to get from Rahman: she belongs to that generation of jazz musicians with Coltrane’s DNA who use musical improvisation to express the inexpressible. Each song for Rahman begins as a suggestion and, in truth, it’s never clear where the music is going to go.
The resulting experiment is never less than interesting when the innovator, and Rahman is inspired by the circuitous and eternally inventive Thelonious Monk, is supported by a rhythm section as tight as Oli Hayhust on bass and Gene Calderazzo on drums.
Modern jazz is defiantly without surprises so it shouldn’t be ironic that the Zoe Rahman Trio was at its most interesting when it was a quartet: Idris Rahman on clarinet, Zoe’s brother, is the current that gives this river of sound its direction.
No music can compete with jazz in its capacity to absorb art from multi cultural sources and convert oral medium, for example, into a purely musical form. Idris and Zoe’s CD, Where Rivers Meet, also featuring Hayhust and Calderazzo, is inspired by the songs and poems of Rabindranath Tagore who, to my surprise, nobody in the capacity audience seemed to have heard of. Tagore was the first to produce music in drama in his native Bengali.
The Rahman trio (or quartet?) was a delicious confection of unbridled enthusiasm and musicianship as one song morphed into another, with O, River (I think) tightly swaddled by Idris Rahman’s clarinet until Zoe brings the music to a plane inhabited by both Bengali music and John Coltranesque solos.
Zoe is the winner of the Perrier Young Jazz Musician of the Year award in the UK, Hayhurst has held residencies at Ronnie Scott’s and Calderazzo has played with Sting and Radiohead.
It is a credit to Wexford Opera House that musicians of this calibre are now visiting our neck of the woods with increasing regularity and that the audiences are voting with their feet.