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Friday, November 20, 2020

Yazz Ahmed: Livestreamed from Kings Place, EFG London Jazz Festival - Nov. 19.

Yazz Ahmed (trumpet/flugelhorn); Ralph Wyld (vibes); Martin France (drums); Dave Manington (bass). 

(Review/screenshots by Amy Sibley-Allen) 

British-Bahraini composer, trumpeter and flugelhorn player Yazz Ahmed’s star is rapidly rising and what a shining light it is. The livestreamed concert from Kings Place is testament to that. Ahmed’s nuanced psychedelic mix of jazz and electronics with Arabian rhythms and influences is captivating.

Since releasing her debut album Finding My Way Home in 2011 Ahmed has honed her craft and collaborated with many musicians including Lee Scratch Perry and Radiohead, amongst others, even undertaking a world tour with These New Puritans. For this concert Ahmed mixes up tracks from her last two album releases La Saboteuse (2018), exploring the inner destroyer, and Polyhymnia (2020), a homage to female courage and determination - for which she has recently won Jazz FM Jazz Album of the Year and additionally took home Jazz Act of the Year.

Whilst often writing for, and performing with, her septet the Hafla band and larger ensembles this concert is stripped back to a just a quartet featuring drummer Martin France, vibraphonist Ralph Wyld and bass player Dave Manington. Set up facing each other on the Kings Place stage it feels intimate with a hazy vibe and kaleidoscopic lighting - fitting of the music. Overall the Kings Place streaming was flawless and the sound mix spot on.  

The opening track Lahan al-Mansour, which is inspired by Arabian film director Haifaa al-Mansour, immediately enthrals with bowed vibraphone followed by a fine interplay with France’s drum grooves with underlying steady bass. Ahmed’s manipulated trumpet effects with Arabic melodies set the tone of the evening.

The reflective La Saboteuse zones in on France’s controlled and delicate drumming and the subtle interplay of the quartet - an Arabic poem weaves through the soundscape, voicing the inner destroyer - which translated reads ‘she says she is my friend’ but ‘is not to be trusted’.

The third track Jamil Jamal has driving rhythms and a vibrant energy throughout before a transfixing and evocative solo bass intro from Manington on 2857, dedicated to Rosa Parks, utilising sound manipulations and loop pedal before vibes and drums join. Ahmed’s mellow flugelhorn playing adds a sublime tone to the track.

A Shoal of Souls is a heartfelt and powerful tune inspired both by the artwork of Sophie Bass and Sufism’s whirling and twirling. Dedicated to all of the lives lost crossing the Mediterranean in search of a better future this sits heavy but is an outstanding track. The final piece of the evening The Lost Pearl is inspired by Bahrain, Ahmed’s first home, and is a rich feast of Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms.

Whilst Ahmed may have been battling her inner saboteur ‘we are very grateful that she has found salvation in sound’ as stated in the concert’s opening intro and I am sure is felt by all those listening. In a fitting end to the evening Ahmed’s father posted the last live stream chat comment, which simply stated how proud he was - and he really has every right to be. 

Amy

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