By: Zoe Rahman
AN ACTION-PACKED career has seen acclaimed pianist Zoe Rahman become one of the brightest lights in British music.
The world-class musician has released multiple albums, performed all over the world and blazed a trail with her unique jazz inspired sound. She adds to her many marvellous concerts by being part of the Milap Indo Jazz Club show at The Capstone Theatre in Liverpool next Thursday (23) and performs alongside leading musicians from contrasting genres.
Eastern Eye caught up with the magnificently talented maestro ahead of the Liverpool International Jazz Festival concert to select her top 10 musical moments.
Amazing Australia: One of the best venues I’ve ever played at was the Sydney Opera House. I played a duo with the bass player Danny Thompson, as part of a tour of Nick Drake’s music, Way to Blue produced by Joe Boyd. The acoustics in the venue were incredible. My dressing room looked straight out onto Sydney Harbour bridge, and it had a beautiful Steinway piano. It was all pretty amazing. I felt really lucky to be there.
Bengali magic: I played in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with my brother, Idris, when we were working on music for our Where Rivers Meet album. We had arranged some Tagore music and other Bengali songs that we had learnt through our dad to try and connect with our Bengali side. The Bengali superstar Arnob came and sang with us for a couple of tunes. The first three rows were made up entirely of my family, so it was really special.
Inspiring encounter: Meeting jazz pianist McCoy Tyner after a gig he did at the Regattabar Jazz Club in Boston, where I was a student, was special. He was such a phenomenal musician and a big influence on me as a pianist, so it was very inspiring to see him play and talk to him. When he heard my British accent, he said he had lived in the UK for a while and loved ‘Sainsbury’s prawn crisps’.
Magnificent mentor: Being taught by the pianist Joanne Brackeen at Berklee College of Music. She’s so inspirational on many levels – her compositions are really playful, unusual and rhythmically complex. And the sound she gets out of the piano is immense. The fact that she’s one of the few female jazz musicians to have worked with jazz legends like drummer Art Blakey and sax player Joe Henderson makes her stand out as an artist. I love her music, and she’s always been really encouraging to me as a musician.
Mercury moment: Being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2006 for my second album, Melting Pot, was amazing. I hadn’t expected it at all. It had a huge impact at the time. The evening itself was fairly surreal, performing on television and being given a platform alongside artists like Thom Yorke, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, and Scritti Politti. It was a great after-party!
Lyrical win: Writing a song for my kids’ school to help them win Jamie Cullum’s Yamaha grand piano was a great experience – it’s the only time I’ve ever written lyrics and was a bit of an experiment. To hear it sung with such enthusiasm by the school children and to see their faces light up when they won the piano was fantastic.
Special connection: I love playing music and going to gigs with my children. My son is a drummer and I love playing my music with him, as he’s such a natural musician – it’s a joy to
watch him play. The connection I have with him musically is very special.
Amazing award: Receiving the Ivor Novello Impact Award at the Ivor Novello Composers
Awards in 2021 came completely out of the blue. It was great to get recognition for all the years of dedication to my craft and to know that my music has had an influence on others.
Inspiring gig: Going to hear a jazz gig for the first time as a teenager in Chichester, and thinking, ‘that’s what I want to do’ will always be memorable. I have spent all my life pursuing that dream.
Courtney collaboration: Working with British jazz legend Courtney Pine is always a treat. He’s so supportive of my music – his words of wisdom always help encourage me to carry on making music in my own way, and I’m grateful for that. While on tour with him recently I was planing my own new album, which will be out in July this year. Working with all the incredible
musicians on this new album is high up on my top 10 list of musical moments. We’ll be at Love Supreme Festival on July 2 and touring through out the UK soon, and can’t wait.
Milap Indo Jazz Club concert takes place at The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool Hope University, 17 Shaw Street, Liverpool L6 1HP next Thursday (23). www.milapfest.com and www.zoerahman.com