Zoe Rahman has firmly established herself as one of the brightest stars on the contemporary jazz scene. Described in The Observer as “one of the finest young pianists in Europe”, Zoe has recorded four critically acclaimed albums. Melting Pot, was nominated for the Nationwide Mercury Prize and was voted ‘Jazz Album of the Year’ at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards.
We are very much looking forward to your specially commissioned piece to accompany I Don’t What To Be A Man. Can you tell us a little bit about the process that took place between your first viewing of the film and the finished composition?
I watched the silent film a few times with drummer Pat Illingworth so we could get a clear idea of the story line and characters. We then each dug out a few albums from our record collections and played different tracks in accompaniment to see how different styles of music would affect our experience of watching it and to give each other an idea of what we thought might sound good with the film. We then tried playing along to the film (Pat on drums and myself on piano) to see if we could just improvise some ideas – that was really hard! After a lot of trial and error we eventually came up with themes for specific characters/scenes, around which we improvise, so the music isn’t a fixed composition as such – we play it differently each time, although the structure and themes stay the same – it keeps us on our toes!
You have performed alongside some big names (e.g. Jools Holland and Courtney Pine) – do you enjoy working collaboratively?
I have always enjoyed collaborating with other artists and that includes working with dancers and theatre companies as well as musicians. Working on the music for this film has been an opportunity to play just with piano and drums, which has been great fun but very challenging.
As someone immersed in the music industry do you feel aware of the gap between the
number of female and male composers?
I’m very aware that in the jazz world there’s are far fewer women instrumentalists and composers than there are men but there are also a lot of wonderful female composers throughout the history of jazz who just haven’t got the same recognition as their male counterparts (Mary Lou Williams, Alice Coltrane, Eliane Elias, Maria Schneider, Carla Bley, JoAnne Brackeen, Alcyona Mick to name just a few). Women jazz composers do exist but you have to search a bit to find them.
If you could remove the dialogue from any film and replace it with music which would it be?
Any one of Sattajit Ray’s ‘Apu Trilogy’….or Brief Encounter!
What future projects do you have lined up?
I’m working with Courtney Pine’s band as well as Jerry Dammer’s Spatial AKA Orchestra. With my own band, I’m hoping to record another album this year and am also working on some solo piano music for a gig at King’s Place in September!