Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Zoe Rahman, Colour of Sound, Manushi *****

THE SATURDAY MORNING LISTEN Recorded at Michele Catri's Master Chord studio in North Finchley's Woodside Park area close to Totteridge Lane - where Paul Edis recorded The Still Point Of The Turning World a couple of years ago. The place has an …

Published: 3 Jun 2023. Updated: 13 months.

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THE SATURDAY MORNING LISTEN

Recorded at Michele Catri's Master Chord studio in North Finchley's Woodside Park area close to Totteridge Lane - where Paul Edis recorded The Still Point Of The Turning World a couple of years ago. The place has an amazing piano and the sound on both albums is excellent. Comprised of originals by pianist composer Zoe Rahman, the Chichester born English player of Bengali and Irish descent known in recent years for her acclaimed work with Courtney Pine on his Spirituality and Ballads: The Songbook albums, who is no stranger to awards and fan appreciation. Rahman, 52, has been Mercury nominated, Parliamentary Jazz Award winning and most recently an Ivors Composer Awards impact winner in 2021.

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Zoe Rahman above at the Ivors in 2021 with fellow pianist Julian Joseph.

What a track record. And all completely deserved. A dynamic thinker it isn't a surprise at all that Colour of Sound is one of the best albums of the year so far. At just over three quarters of an hour in length brevity is the soul of wit in an otherwise maximalist world of infinite doom scrolling. And there is nothing at all woe-is-me here. Quite the reverse but neither is it a Pollyanna statement, the intricate arrangements and cross rhythmical intersections do not allow triteness or self-indulgent tristesse although there are tender moments.

An archived live stream version, watch above, of trio track 'Roots' with Colour of Sound double bassist Alec Dankworth and drummer Gene Calderazzo in the Zoe Rahman trio broadcast online from Dalston's Vortex in east London last year. In the 7 and a half minute-plus album version there is a transcendental solo piano introduction that lasts until the 2 mins and 22 second mark going into the riff familiar at the beginning of the live trio version above

Tracks are: 'Dance of Time,' 'For Love,' 'Little Ones,' 'Sweet Jasmine,' 'Go With the Flow,' 'Roots,' (a piece commissioned by the London Jazz Festival) 'Unity' and 'Peace Garden'. Zoe's brother the fine Soothsayers and Julia Biel collaborator saxophonist Idris Rahman who has appeared on some of sis' albums over the years and co-produces is on tenor, alto and clarinet and also in the horn section are trumpeters Byron Wallen on 1 track, actually that one 'Sweet Jasmine' is easily the best on the whole album, and Alexandra Ridout plus, slider with Rosie, trombonist Rosie Turton. Beyond Ron Burgundy appreciatingly flautist Rowland Sutherland known for his work with Orphy Robinson on the vibist's Astral Weeks homage is also among the ensemble personnel with the bassist here UK bass icon Alex Dankworth superb recently with Hummus Crisis on Banks of the River. Expat US London scene former Partisans legend Gene Calderazzo last heard at the Louche a few months ago in good form with the Mobley loving Alex Harper and certainly ditto here completes the collective personnel. McCoy Tyner and Joanne Brackeen influenced as ever Colour of Sound is simply a pleasure from beginning to end.

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MORE RELATED READING AND LISTENING:
BEST UK AND IRELAND Jan-date in 2023:

The full list of best UK and Ireland in 2023 ranked so far, latest update

1 Colour of Sound Out on 7 July

2 A Short Diary

3 Open House

4 Faithful One

5 The Now out on 23 June

6 Ginger's Hollow

7 Everything Is Going To Be OK

8 The Soundless Dark

9 London Brew

10 Returning Weather

The Zoe Rahman octet play Turner Sims in Southampton on 16 June and tours. 'Dance of Time' is streaming

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Robin McKelle, Impressions of Ella, Naïve/Doxie ****

'I WON'T DANCE' IS TRACK OF THE WEEK ON MARLBANK FOR WEEK BEGINNING 5 JUNE 'SO I MUST SURRENDER': Robin McKelle's version of Illinois Jacquet and Sir Charles Thompson's 'Robbins' Nest' synonymous with Basie and then with Ella Fitzgerald from the …

Published: 2 Jun 2023. Updated: 13 months.

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'I WON'T DANCE' IS TRACK OF THE WEEK ON MARLBANK FOR WEEK BEGINNING 5 JUNE

'SO I MUST SURRENDER': Robin McKelle's version of Illinois Jacquet and Sir Charles Thompson's 'Robbins' Nest' synonymous with Basie and then with Ella Fitzgerald from the late 1940s is a highlight of Impressions of Ella.

The Peter Washington bounce on 'Old Devil Moon' is the first thing appreciated here and that's made the listening week - thank you very much. With a far better band and far more honed concept than Alterations McKelle has one of the world's greatest jazz pianists in Kenny Barron with her and he proves particularly perfect on a very still take on Billy Strayhorn's 'Lush Life'. McKelle sounds liltingly bluesy and more herself. She doesn't sound at all like Ella although certainly has a pure voice, the gear shift up when piano and bass go into cruise control at high altitude on 'How High the Moon' and the Rochester New York State born 47 year old scats convincingly. Definitely another highlight.

And another is when Kurt Elling guests on 'I Won't Dance' in another big strong suit of the album - it's a style and song you don't hear these days on an Elling record much given this is more ''modern mainstream'' than what he does, the swing is chunkier, McKelle curls the triplet feel in a differently accented way with this incredible piano trio to hand.

We are up to speed with Elling's latest direction given that we checked out in advance of Jazzahead Elling's September release The Iridescent Spree. McKelle's work as a leader goes back to the late 1990s speaks some French here, maybe not as strong a forte for her as the far more retro cabaret tilt of Stacey Kent say how the Duchess does Gainsbourg's 'Ces petits riens' on Breakfast on the Morning Tram. Elling does a ça va and some of his jive talk appealingly speaking fluent hipsterish as is the Chicagoan's beatnik wont across the song and croons like Sinatra on A Swingin' Affair.

Washington from the mighty Bill Charlap trio, skip over to their 2021 masterwork Street of Dreams - drummer Kenny Washington and fellow Charlapian is also on Impressions of Ella - is perfect here again. McKelle blends like a US Clare Teal who herself was also influenced by Ella something that occurs to us most when McKelle harmonises with Elling. Best pun and musically completely right selection has Robin doing the lovable Illinois Jacquet and Sir Charles Thompson classic 'Robbins' Nest' that Ella sang on a 1949 released recording. It's a possessive plural by the way in case confused and thinking of the singularly friendly garden redbreast - Fred Robbins (1919-1992) was a 1940s era DJ who had a bebop loving radio show on the Hearst owned WINS call signed station in New York.

One of the jazz vocals highlights of the year - surely McKelle's best statement to date and certainly up there with the high watermark of Modern Antique and even more swinging than that fine album's strongest dimension which was found on the slamming latin-jazz ballroom fling of a take on 'Comes Love.' Out today

Robin McKelle, photo: Frank Bullitt

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