Zoe Rahman

Tolbooth

Stirling

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FOUR STARS

With two young children under three needing entertained at home, Zoe Rahman says she doesn’t get to play piano to an audience of adults very often these days. Let’s hope these youngsters come to appreciate how privileged they are to enjoy such intimate recitals because listening to the Chichester-born Rahman getting to know the Tolbooth’s Estonia grand, especially when she delicately explored her Bengali roots, was a treat indeed.

Rahman is more usually found leading her trio, a situation, she joked, that lets her take off her cardigan much earlier during bass or drum solos, but aside from that convenience, she doesn’t need other musicians’ company. Her forceful left hand provides strong rhythm patterns and big chords at times reminiscent of McCoy Tyner driving the classic John Coltrane Quartet and she seems able to inspire a flow of improvised ideas within herself, building her ‘solos’ with a conversational logic where she asks and answers questions melodically.

Her choice of material was both refreshingly diverse and easily familiar but still featuring her own take and pacing on standards including Duke Ellington’s The Single Petal of a Rose and Thelonious Monk’s Ruby My Dear, which was delivered as a brief but sincere parting shot.

There’s a lot of joyfulness and wit in her playing, the latter quality coming through notably as she dampened the strings on Jessica Williams’ soul-jazz flavoured The Sheikh and stretched the phrasing to her own will on These Foolish Things, and she balances stormy vigour, as on her own The Epicentre, with a marvellously poetic touch on pieces selected from Bengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore and her dad’s favourite music from his days in Dhaka.