Yazz Ahmed – Finding My Way Home ★★★★

Suntara Records SUN7422001

Yazz Ahmed (t, flhn), Janek Gwizdala (b), Shabaka Hutchings (bcl, clt), Alam Nathoo (ts), Chris Fish (clo), John Bailey (p), Simon Hale (Rhodes), Jay Darwish (b), Laurence Cottle (el b), George Hart (d), and Corrina Silvester (d, darbuka, rig and sagat). Rec. 2008 and 2009

Now in her latetwenties, Yazz Ahmed only started playing jazz on the trumpet in her late teens. You aren’t made aware of this though when you listen to this very assured, sensuously lyrical debut that draws from a rich musical inheritance. The album’s centrepiece is the four improv duos with New York-based virtuoso bassist Janek Gwidala that are based on Arabic modes she heard as a little kid in Bahrain but has only fairly recently rediscovered. The other half of the recording resonates with the music gleaned from her inspiring grandfather the trumpeter Terry Brown, a member of the original Dankworth 7, and a Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes group sideman.

The 1950s modal era is a particular focus but the sparse duo version of Miles’ ‘So What’ and the classic Blue Note Joe Henderson theme for ‘Flip Flop’ don’t sound so retro and there are affinities with Miles Davis’ influence from Andalucia on Sketches of Spain on occasion as well as the sonic impressionism of something like In a Silent Way. Meanwhile the touching Kenny Wheeler-like melancholy of the original ballad, ‘Conciliation’ and a cover of Stan Sulzmann’s ‘Birthdays Birthdays’ do more than hint at allegiances to post-1960s British jazz.

‘Wah Wah Sowawah’, (featuring a whirling guest spot from clarinettist Shabaka Hutchings, a peer from her time at the Guildhall) is also reminiscent of the Swedish trumpeter Goran Kajfes. The Jaco-influenced Gwizdala has a key role orchestrating and layering his bass via a loop station so it can sound guitar-like while any urge he might had had to overindulge in fleetfingered fusion virtuosity is quietened by the tender, spatial qualities in Ahmed’s music. It all adds up to a very pleasurable listening experience.

– Selwyn Harris

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