Album reviews

Zoe Rahman – ‘Colour of Sound’

Zoe RahmanColour of Sound
(Manushi Records MANUCD007. CD review by Mike Collins)

A brooding piano rumble, then a grooving, funky riff and the band surges in behind Zoe Rahman’s piano. Click play on the pianist’s new release Colour of Sound and the music declares itself boldly.

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Rahman is on imperious form on this recording and has assembled a diverse and creative group of musicians who all bring something distinctive to the varied set of eight originals. Each piece is carefully crafted with engaging motifs, hooks, twists and turns. Dense layers of sound add intensity and tension revealing more on repeated listens.

Zoe Rahman sitting in front of a wall of graffiti wearing jeans and a red top smiling at the camera

Gene Calderazzo on drums and Alec Dankworth on bass are at the heart of the band with the leader. On the opener Dance of Time, Calderazzo boils away as Rowland Sutherland’s flute cuts through on the riff, the rolling momentum pushed along by a bouncing McCoy Tyner-ish left hand before first Rahman then Sutherland cut loose, surfing on the wash of rhythm from the kit. For Love introduces Idris Rahman, on sax for this piece. A declarative statement over a pulsing rhythm section figure is answered by a more urgent swinging section, Alex Ridout’s trumpet and Rosie Turton’s trombone adding colour to the twisting phrases. The sax solo’s squalling phrases and swooping laments give way to another expansive piano solo pushing the band to an exultant climax. 

Little Ones is more introspective, Idris Rahman on clarinet spiralling and swirling through the dark, rich harmony. Sweet Jasmine has an irresistible vibe, Calderazzo nodding at a second-line groove, and Zoe Rahman’s arranging bouncing phrases around the band and crafting sinuous, edgy hooks. Byron Wallen guests on trumpet, winding up the energy with a fluid solo. Go with the Flow has a rolling energy and fizzing solos from Dankworth and Ridout on flugel. Roots seems to distil all the complexity, and angular lyricism of the set into a compelling trio piece.

Rahman’s arranging on Unity somehow makes the ensemble sound like a full orchestra, an attractive melodic phrase gradually developed, flowering into unexpected shapes and morphing into a fluid, melodic piano solo over a bustling samba-like groove. Peace Garden, another trio number, ends the set on a dreamy, meditative note.

Zoe Rahman has deservedly garnered nominations and awards through her now decades long career. Colour of Sound shows us again why that is. It’s a big, rich and nuanced musical statement that will stand out amongst the year’s releases.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bristol, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter: @jazzyblogman

LINK: Colour of Sound on Bandcamp

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