Yazz Ahmed: La Saboteuse (Naim)

Magnificent new set from rising star that combines Western Jazz with Arabic scales

Released May 11th, 2017 via Naim Jazz / By Norman Miller
Yazz Ahmed: La Saboteuse (Naim) Bahraini-raised but now London-based, Yazz Ahmed (trumpet, flugelhorn) hit the jazz spotlight with a storming 2010 performance, playing with a quintet at London's Ronnie Scott's. Since then, she's gone on to collaborate with an impressively diverse bunch of top names, including Lee “Scratch” Perry, These New Puritans and Radiohead (she played flugelhorn on King Of Limbs).

Her 2012 debut album Finding My Way Home began a journey to fuse melodic modes of Arabic music with Western style modal jazz, which La Saboteuse builds on magnificently. A dozen tracks stretch and interweave musical modes across 13 tracks, bookended by the languid trumpet pieces Inhale and Exhale.

Though Ahmed's trumpet and flugelhorn put their stamp on almost every cut, she's ably supported by the textures added by eight other musicians: Lewis Wright (vibes), Shabaka Hutchings (bass clarinet), Samuel Hällkvist (electric guitars), Naadia Sheriff (Fender Rhodes & Wurlitzer pianos), bass players Dudley Phillips and Dave Manington, Martin France on drums, and Corrina Silvester on a quirky medley of other percussive stuff including bucket, darbuka, gongs, waterphone, sagat and ankle bells!

The standard throughout is generally brilliant, with even a less successful track like Whirling lifted by a sweet clarinet solo. But treasures abound. Vibes, pitter patter cymbals and trumpet bring a groovy slink to The Space Between The Fish And The Moon, while The Lost Pearl nods to Miles Davis' Bitches Brew with its twisting brass and driving bass augmented by a cool vibes solo. The short-but-sweet Inspiration Expiration conjures images of a falcon rising on a musical thermal made of trumpet and vibes.

Arab inflections weave in and out, most to the fore in the superb brass-led title track and the restless complex musical interplay of the seductive Al Emadi. Beleil is coolly ethereal melange of sinuous bass and a wash of keys pierced by little trumpet stabs.

Though ploughing a very different path, Yazz Ahmed joins Laura Jurd (Dinosaur) in the rank of young women making some of the most enthralling jazz in Britain today.