It was a similar situation the following night. First on the bill in the Queen Elisabeth Hall was the Zoe Rahman Trio. I specifically wanted to see Rahman: she won various prizes last year, and was nominated for the Mercury prize, so I was curious. She had played recently in Edinburgh, but I missed her, so I took the advantage of catching her in London. She was good, but not overly – she didn’t really bear comparison to Neil Cowley. I think a lot of it might have been down to the venue: her trio were spread across the broad stage of the QEH, and I think they found it hard to fill the auditorium with their sound. It all seemed a bit distant.
(I was discussing this recently with a friend, a jazz promoter who has twenty years experience of managing gigs; I reminded her of how the pianist Michel Pettruciani had managed to completely fill the Royal Festival Hall, captivating his audience from the outset at a concert she had run, and to which she insisted I had to go. She said that this was down to the fact that nowadays, musicians got famous too quickly – to meet the needs of fitting all the audience in, they play big halls, whereas “Michel had to pay his dues in the small clubs, so he could grow in stature…” This was a bit unfortunate, since Pettruciani, although a giant of a musician, was actually very small – he suffered from brittle bone disease. He is sorely missed.)
I definitely think seeing Rahman in a more intimate venue would have been worthwhile; in Edinburgh, she played the Lot, a small club that holds 150 at most. I should have made the effort to see her there. In London, she was good; but why was she not matched with Neil Cowley the previous night? I am sure that would have worked.
Whereas she was first up to Richard Bona. I had not heard of him; and three numbers in, I knew I wasn’t in the mood for the latin-funk he was playing. I lasted three numbers before leaving. It just wasn’t my scene.
So I saw five bands at LJF: loved two, liked one, thought one was ok and hated one. Not too bad a score sheet.