Yazz Ahmed bewitches at Rays Jazz, Foyles, London


As the crowd steadily gathered in anticipation on the top floor of Foyles books store, the warehouse-like mise en scene couldn't have contrasted more with the imagery to come of Yazz Ahmed’s music.

UK trumpeter Ahmed, who has collaborated with names such as Kenny Wheeler and Steve Williamson, took us on an exploration of Arabic sonics from her Bahraini roots which she scattered throughout the performance of her quartet arrangement, comprising of Ralph Wyld (vibraphone) Dave Mannington (electric bass) and Will Glaser (drums). Our first taste was immediate in opener ‘Wah-Wah Sowahwah’ in which Persian voicing meandered eerily into the the main percussive riff, personified by Wyld’s use of double bass bows. His elongated strokes along the edges of the vibraphone bars created funereal tones lingering above the ensemble. Among percussive passages complimenting a throng of shuffling brush strokes and accented off beats from Glaser; Ahmed introduced an electronic element adding reverb delay to her trumpet. Her programmed, intertwining melodies created a distinct but pleasing change in the piece’s texture.

‘Whispering Gallery’, inspired by the 1st-floor room of St Paul’s Cathedral followed, emitting flashes of Pat Metheny in Mannington’s increasingly rich bass lines while Ahmed lulled with a soft melancholic traveling solo on the flugelhorn. As the piece ended Wyld took the reigns delighting the crowd with a two minute Gary Burton-esque improvisation, a perfect segue into the standout track of the evening ’Finding my way Home’ named after her debut album; where sparse drums and regal horns flowed into a breakdown that conjured images of rainfall turning a desert to caramel.

The swinging ‘Ruby Bridges’ was another peak, offering shades of Miles’s Sketches material, while Ahmed’s electronic experimentation, via harmonising and phasing effects, again came into play on ‘Laban Al-Mansour' and ‘La Saboteuse’.

      Andrew Mensah