Live reviews

Lucia Cadotsch + Zoe Rahman at the 2022 Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Lucia Cadotsch quartet, Zoe Rahman quintet

Cheltenham Jazz Festival. 29 April 2022. Parabola Arts Centre. Live Reviews by Jon Turney)

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L-R: Kit Downes, Lucia Cadotsch, Phil Donkin, James Maddren. Photo: John Watson/

Friday evening saw two Cheltenham festival returnees in new ensembles who each delivered stunning music. Swiss singer Lucia Cadotsch was as spare and restrained as ever, her rhythm and phrasing distinctively jazz-inflected but leaving improvisation largely to her bandmates. As they are the trio of Kit Downes, piano, Phil Donkin, bass and James Maddren, drums, this works satisfyingly well. She is piloting a Rolls and she knows it.

They presented new songs, most often featuring fluting vocal over a slow beat. Each became a miniature drama, with touches of both the jazzier end of Joni Mitchell’s oeuvre and the great Annette Peacock. The sepulchral Ballad of the Drowned Girl was an old favourite in new guise. There were fireworks, and rocking interludes, from the trio, but Cadotsch remains a perfect embodiment of the aesthetic of less is more. Stuck for an encore, she and Downes settled on a duo on Black is the Colour, making the old refreshingly new.

L-R: Zoe Rahman, Rowland Sutherland, Byron Wallen, Flo Moore, Cheryl Alleyne. Photo: John Watson/

Minimalism is not pianist Zoe Rahman’s style, and her new quintet packed an astonishing amount of new music into a characteristically short Cheltenham set. This imparted a slight sense of compression, which for once worked well to highlight how much composing and arranging she has gifted her ensemble with its immensely experienced front line – the brilliant Rowland Sutherland on flutes and Byron Wallen on trumpet and flugelhorn, with Flo Moore, bass and Cheryl Alleyne, drums.

They opened with a new arrangement of the dancing Red Squirrel – the same tune that began her two piano set with Nikki Yeoh at the last Cheltenham festival in 2019. Immediately we heard new possibilities opening up with the flute/trumpet combination. And Rahman, long known for brilliant piano solo and trio work, exploited them to the full in half a dozen more pieces, all packed with happy detail in the often complex writing. She urged on the soloists with Tyneresque insistence, squeezed in plenty of solo excursions of her own, and shared her delight in hearing the new material come alive before a full house. This was high-spirited music, full of good cheer, warmly received. In a word: festive.

LINK: Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Categories: Live reviews

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