REVIEW: Yazz Ahmed - La Saboteuse album launch at Kings Place (2017 EFG LJF)

Yazz Ahmed at Kings Place
Photo credit: John Watson/ jazzcamera.co.uk

Yazz Ahmed - La Saboteuse album launch
(Kings Place Hall Two. 2017 EFG LJF. Review by Gail Tasker)

Against a backdrop of colourful and shifting sketches by illustrator Sophie Bass, Yazz Ahmed and her band performed an extended set of tunes from her latest album, La Saboteuse (Naim). The line-up was eclectic in instrumentation, including Ralph Wyld on vibraphone, Corrina Silvester on a variety of percussion, and Ahmed herself on flugelhorn. Theye were complemented by Dudley Philips on electric bass, Martin France on drums, Naadia Sheriff on piano, and the Swede Samuel Hällkvist on electric guitar. The gig marked the launch of her new album, and although the musicians and instruments were slightly different from those on the recording, the group interpreted a number of Ahmed’s beautifully arranged compositions with impressive vividness and flair.

There was a definite underlying edge to the music which took it outside of the jazz genre. The unique instrumentation, coupled with an Arabic twist in terms of scales, melody, and rhythm, invited the audience into a different reality. Tunes like Jamil Jamal featured driving rhythms by Silvester combined with a unison melodic riff over an Arabic scale, immediately bringing to mind dry deserts and hot sun, a reminder of Ahmed’s Bahraini roots. In La Saboteuse, melodies were passed around the band in different configurations and in a staggered fashion, giving a lulling, gentle feeling to the music. Despite the relaxed, atmospheric aspect of the music, the performance never lost its momentum. France kept the pace up with frantic drum patterns, a nice contrast against Ahmed’s more textural trumpet playing, which was aided by synths and various effect pedals.

It was refreshing to see a band leader take a more back-seat role, as Ahmed took to directing the group and listening to the overall sound as opposed to taking spotlight solos. Sporadic explanations between playing showcased the vibe and direction behind the music. If having three female instrumentalists in a jazz line up wasn’t enough, Ahmed was clear in describing certain music as being inspired by Rosa Park and by strong female role models in general. It was towards the end of the set that the performance really began to warm up, with different sound directions being taken in the soloing. At one point, France and Wyld improvised together, and at another point, Hällkvist and Ahmed.

The unusual compositions combined with unique band configuration led to a memorable evening, and one that is definitely going to stick in my mind.

INTERVIEW ABOUT LA SABOTEUSE FROM 2016

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