In an over-lit auditorium on the top floor of Foyles flagship bookshop, British-Bahraini trumpeter Yazz Ahmed and her quartet provide a set of mystery and promise. Ahmed cuts a reticent figure throughout, and at times it feels more like vibraphonist Ralph Wyld’s gig. He takes the majority of the solos, crafting zero gravity phrases with any number of mallets, and on occasion a bow. Melodies oscillate between the two, beginning on Flugel and ending on vibraphone, or at times meandering off unresolved into the ambience.
It has been four years since Ahmed’s feted debut album Finding My Way Home. The long awaited follow up is apparently just around the corner, but on tonight’s evidence there is much Ahmed still wishes to explore. The newer compositions we hear are high concept: ‘Whispering Gallery’ is based on field recordings from St Paul’s Cathedral; two pieces dedicated to inspirational women are extracted from Ahmed’s Women of the World suite; and another is based on an improvisation by Janek Gwizdala, Ahmed’s friend and the bassist on her first album. That at least two pieces derive from borrowed melodies hints at a search for self-confidence. The familiar theme of home elicits the liveliest dialogue among the group.
A piece dedicated to Ahmed’s Bahraini family is built on Jaco-like bass loops melded with middle-eastern melodies, underscored by the urgent rhythms of a bazaar bustle. “We should play another; I think…?” questions Ahmed as she introduces the encore number. It is a tribute to the ‘inner destroy in all of us’ and Ahmed makes good on this dedication by using a sampler to repeat her fluid Flugel phrases as twisted sirens. One senses Ahmed needs to build her confidence a little, but the results of her efforts, while sometimes unassured, are oddly arresting.
– Liam Izod