In the seven years since she was awarded the title ‘Perrier Young Musician of the Year’, the Bangladeshi-British jazz pianist Zoe Rahman has emerged as a leading figure on the British jazz scene. Now her profile has taken a further leap upwards, with the shortlisting of her second album, “Melting Pot” for the £20,000 Nationwide Mercury Prize. The winner of the prize will be announced at the awards ceremony on September 5.
To be shortlisted for the Nationwide Mercury is a major achievement for Rahman, who was born in Chichester, near the English south coast, and received her musical education at Oxford University and Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA.
“Melting Pot” is the only jazz CD on the shortlist of 12, which also includes the Arctic Monkeys with “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not”, Thom Yorke with “The Eraser”, Guillemots with “Through the Windowpane” and Editors with “The Back Room.”
The Mercury Prize was established 14 years ago in memory of Freddie Mercury, the late singer of rock band Queen. The Arctic Monkeys are currently favourite to win. Even if Rahman doesn’t win the prize, the shortlisting of “Melting Pot” has already led to an upsurge of media and public interest in her work, and is bound to lead to substantially increased sales of the album.
The Nationwide Mercury shortlist is the latest accolade for Rahman. Her debut album “The Cynic” was shortlisted for the BBC Radio 3 Jazz Album of the Year. In May this year, “Melting Pot” won the Album of the Year award from the All-Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group.
Rahman is from a musically gifted family. Her brother Idriss plays woodwind (including the clarinet on “Melting Pot”), and her sister Sophie is a classical pianist of note.
In addition to her own trio, Rahman regularly performs with other ensembles including Clark Tracey’s New Quintet, and her brother Idris’s group Soothsayers. She is one of the musicians on Palestinian singer Reem Kelani’s debut album “Sprinting Gazelle” which was released earlier this year.
Rahman has been preparing for a trip to Bangladesh to explore the country’s musical roots and to meet family members, and has been learning some Bengali from a “Teach Yourself” book. The one track on “Melting Pot” not written by her is the Bengali song “Muchhe Jaoa Dinguli” written by singer and composer Hemant Mukherjee. Rahman has added her reworkings of several other Mukherjee songs to her repertoire.
Rahman is undoubtedly a jazz performer with a great future ahead of her. Her many fans will be keeping their fingers crossed on the night of September 5 when the winner of the Nationwide Mercury is announced.
Saudi Gazette, August 8 2006