Yazz Ahmed Quartet – Ray's Jazz at Foyles, London

Yazz Ahmed

A full house at Foyles witnessed something special as trumpeter/composer Yazz Ahmed took to the stage with her copiously talented quartet. Allowing the band to swirl and flicker through an evocative introduction, Ahmed conjures music that has an instant presence and sense of place. As the groove takes hold, the focus sharpens and we get a clearer picture of where this place might be, Arabic scales shaping the irresistibly sinuous basslines and hypnotic melodies. A potent soundworld opens up, Yazz's beckoning trumpet alongside beautifully nuanced drumming (Will Glaser), insistent bass (Dave Manington) and expressive vibes (Ralph Wyld).

Second number 'Whispering Gallery' (developed from field recordings in St Paul's) also brings with it a feeling of place – and a sense of space: echo and distance seem key parts of Ahmed's musical anatomy. 'Finding My Way Home' is dedicated to her Bahraini family and perhaps seeks to bridge a gap between two worlds; a lovely vibes solo (masterful handling of all that reverb!) ushers in the warmth of flugelhorn in a beautiful, intimate piece.

Elsewhere, Ahmed expands the sound-palette of her instrument with electronic processing – it's bold and effective, and consistent with her exploration of sound in space. On 'Lahan Al-Mansour' she uses a harmoniser to create chordal layers – this piece taken from 'Polyhymnia', her suite celebrating inspirational female role-models. Ahmed is covering a lot of ground, and yet there's a sense of spaciousness – impressively, the music still has room to breathe. And always there's the groove. No one else is doing anything quite like this at the moment: Ahmed's pursuit of the connection between Arabic music and jazz has such meaningful focus. The encore is dedicated, she says, to her 'inner destroyer' – but that destructive force is obviously well under control, because this is a winning performance of a glowing body of work, original, exciting and optimistic.

– Philip Hogg

The Write Stuff

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