Yazz Ahmed – Alhaan Al Siduri

Review by Brian Homer

Jazzlines Fellows Concert
CBSO Centre, Birmingham UK

This concert presented the music trumpeter Yazz Ahmed composed as part of her time as a Jazzlines Fellow in 2015. Yazz is one of three Fellows this year in a programme supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. The other two are Lauren Kinsella and Chris Mapp.

One of the issues facing all jazz musicians but particularly those in the early stages of their careers is finding the time, space and money to develop their compositional skills and artistic practice and to be able to direct and perform large scale projects. Jazzline’s innovative scheme fills this gap and allows the Fellows to do just that.

One of the benefits of the scheme is the quality of the bands that the Fellows are able to put together and this was immediately noticeable in the line up for this concert. Apart from Yazz on trumpet, flugelhorn and Kaoss Pad, herself an increasingly noted player, the band included Shabaka Hutchings, bass clarinet; Martin France, drums; Dudley Phillips, bass; and Brigitte Beraha, voice, for starters – all brilliant musicians and well known on the scene.

The other musicians were not known to me but all also proved to be very strong with Alya Marquardt also on voice, Jason Singh on voice and electronics (definitely one to watch), Naadia Sheriff on keys and piano and Corinna Silvester on percussion.

Yazz Ahmed

Yazz Ahmed

Alhaan Al Siduri – Melodies for Siduri is a suite written by Yazz Ahmed strongly influenced by her Bahraini background from her father’s family and in particular the pearl diving industry and people. Until oil was discovered in 1932, pearl diving provided the main work and industry on the island.

The piece mixes Yazz’s words and music with field recordings she made in Bahrain, soundscapes created by the interactions of the instrumentalists and the vocalists and the interesting and unusual sounds made by Jason Singh using electronics that seemed to be working with not only his voice but with his gestures. Yazz herself modulated between straight trumpet and flugelhorn sounds and sounds created by using the Kaoss Pad to affect the horn sounds.

The effect of all this was to create a sound which is difficult to classify – very much “composed” but with underlying jazz influences. There were solos but overall the feel was quite contained, more akin to a classical performance rather than a freer jazz set.

At times the jazz shone through, particularly in Martin France’s superb underpinning and at times infectious beat, and in Dudley Phillips’ driving and funky bass lines. And Shabaka’s contributions had great depth and sensitivity.

Although the programme notes were good and Tony Dudley-Evans gave some background in the introduction it would have been good for Yazz to have given some more of the background and influences.

Interestingly, although clearly giving firm leadership throughout, Yazz was quite unassuming and did not foreground her playing very much. She was very assured with a lovely tone but I for one would have loved to have heard her stretch out a bit more and to play more separately from Brigitte and Alya’s voices – at times the three of them were in a very similar register.

To my ears the sound was rather over amplified but then I did make the mistake of sitting at the front not far from one of the speakers – I was just in front of the mixing desk so I was hoping it would be fine. There was also some distortion at times – for instance on the vibes.

But all in all this was an intriguing and very interesting concert which shed light on a culture we don’t hear much about. There was much to admire and there was a very warm response from the audience at the end. It will be good to see where Yazz Ahmed takes her music next.

  • Further showcases from this year’s Fellows are due soon. Lauren Kinsella’s Somewhere in Between is at the Studio Theatre of the Library of Birmingham on Tuesday 13 October 2015. Chris Mapp’s Gonimoblast has two outings each with a guest – Maja Ratke on Thursday 26 November 2015 and Arve Hendriksen is on Friday 27 November 2015 – both gigs at The Crossing, South and City College. See www.thsh.co.uk and search for Jazzlines.

Categories: Live review

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