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Zoe Rahman, Alec Dankworth and Gene Calderazzo at Frith Manor Primary School (2021 EFG LJF)

Zoe Rahman, Alec Dankworth and Gene Calderazzo

(Frith Manor Primary School, Woodside Park, Barnet. 21 November 2021. EFG LJF. Review by Lavender Sutton)

L-R: Zoe Rahman, Alec Dankworth and Gene Calderazzo. All photos credit Melody McLaren

The EFG London Jazz Festival has taken a Barnet Primary School, Frith Manor, by storm as they celebrated the inauguration of their new Yamaha baby grand piano with a concert by internationally recognised (and school parent) Zoe Rahman

In 2020, the school entered a competition to win Jamie Cullum’s own piano, as he decided to donate it to a worthy cause. With the help of a very musical parent, Zoe Rahman, they won the contest and had Jamie Cullum deliver the piano in a performance where the children sang their winning composition for him. (VIDEO BELOW)

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Now, on the final night of the 2021 London Jazz Festival, Rahman hosted a concert to christen this gorgeous new addition to the school and help raise awareness for the arts in the community. 

Her trio featured Gene Calderazzo on drums and Alec Dankworth on bass and together they played a collection of some of her newer tunes and a few instrumental compositions by the likes of Abdullah Ibrahim and Ahmad Jamal.  

Rahman took a great deal of time to engage with her audience, as most of them consisted of community members, parents, neighbours and staff members of Frith Manor. She made a point of saying, “I’ve played some weird and wonderful gigs in my time, and this ranks as probably the weirdest and the most wonderful.” Included in the set were songs written by or for her children, like Bass and Your Smiley Face and Sweet Jasmine. 

Her music is full of interesting, mode-based themes that expand and develop, with so much freedom for improvisation between the three band members. Calderazzo responds cleverly to every little rhythmic twinge and Dankworth’s funky basslines create motifs for audience members to tap along to. 

Conversation with Nellie, a song for Rahman’s grandmother, starts calm and smooth, but develops into an energising and immersive story that can almost be felt as a conversation. 

She finished the set with a piece of Bengali music, as a nod to her heritage and to include a Bengali family who had come to the gig. Surprisingly, it didn’t stand out as particularly different from the rest of her pieces until she named it – a nice realisation that her music is full of influences and that jazz has the capacity to encompass so many different flavours within it. 

Many children of varying primary school ages sat front and centre, interested in the movements of the bass, the groove of the drums or the piano solos. With hopefully some budding musicians in the room, it’s inspiring to know that they have this kind of opportunity in their community.

Maybe this is something for the LJF to consider in future as they spread musical tendrils beyond soft seat theatres or darkened jazz clubs of London. Hopefully Rahman has started a tradition! 

LINK: Melody McLaren’s full cache of photos on Flickr

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