Jazz at the Merchants House begins a new series of monthly concerts with pianist Zoe Rahman and saxophonist Laura Macdonald appearing in the West George Street venue on Sunday February 25.
Two of the top musicians in UK contemporary jazz, both have outstanding CVs which include work with bass master George Mraz, saxophonist Courtney Pine and even Yoko Ono, in Rahman’s case.
Macdonald, among other achievements, can claim to have led a band that featured both guitarist Pat Metheny’s future drummer, Antonio Sanchez and David Bowie’s final collaborator, saxophonist Donny McCaslin.
“We’re delighted to have Zoe and Laura as our first guests of 2024,” says Paul Towndrow, who organises Jazz at the Merchants House.
“Quite apart from the amazing musicians they’ve played with and the awards they have won, they are great musicians in their own right and both have a distinctive sound that draws on their respective musical heritages.
“Zoe has explored her Bengali background and Laura’s compositions often reflect her Scottish roots.”
Born in Chichester to a Bengali father and an English mother, Rahman studied classical piano from the age of four and attended the Royal Academy of Music before taking a music degree at Oxford University.
She went on to study jazz performance at Berklee College of Music, in Boston, where she studied with the inspirational pianist JoAnne Brackeen.
She has since performed all over the world, including Australia, Barbados and Bangladesh and won the Album of the Year at the inaugural Parliamentary Jazz Awards with her second album, Melting Pot.
Quite apart from the amazing musicians they’ve played with and the awards they have won, they are great musicians in their own right and both have a distinctive sound that draws on their respective musical heritages.
She has also won the Ivor Novello Impact Award at the Ivors Composer Awards and a MOBO Award for her album Kindred Spirits.
By comparison, Macdonald was a late starter, taking up the alto saxophone at age sixteen while still at school and quickly progressing with the Strathclyde Youth Jazz Orchestra.
She played with SYJO at Montreux Jazz Festival and then, like Rahman, attended Berklee School of Music in Boston, where she met Sanchez and McCaslin.
Her first album, Laura, featured her with a heavyweight American trio comprising David Budway (piano), James Genus (bass) and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts (drums) and she has since recorded with Swedish drummer Martina Almgren and New York pianist David Berkman as well as completing numerous commissions.
“Zoe and Laura have worked together a fair bit,” says Paul Towndrow. “Laura has guested with Zoe's trio and then returned the compliment in a duo and quartet.
“So there's a real understanding at work here. They’re both brilliant composers and terrific interpreters of other people’s music, so the audience can expect to hear a duo at the top of their game.”