Trumpeter Yazz Ahmed has the pedigree – her grandfather, Terry Brown, played trumpet alongside Tubby Hayes and John Dankworth – and she has the education – she graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2006.
She has a strong, personal sound on trumpet and flugelhorn, and she shows, at times, a powerful vision of how her music can sound.
Flip-Flop is an elegant and gentle composition very much in the modern British tradition fostered by Michael Garrick and taken along by the likes of Kenny Wheeler. Ahmed’s trumpet has Alan Nathoo’s warm tenor for company. Her take on the Miles calling card, So What, is taken at a nice lick, and and Ahmed turns in a neat, clear solo. Birthdays, Birthdays is the prettiest of ballads, prettily played.
The final, title, track, which stretches to over 10 minutes, starts as a trumpet solo, gets added Fender Rhodes and percussion, moves through a trumpet/bass improvised duet and finally emerges into an orchestrated coda, courtesy of co-producer Noel Langley.
But the real clincher for me is Wah-Wah Sowahwah, which has that great space that only Fender Rhodes against a bass ostinato and percussion can achieve. And it’s an exotic desert space in this context, with Arabic nuances building in Ahmed’s playing, and vital added colours from Chris Fish on cello and Shabaka Hutchings on clarinets. It has some of Miles’s In A Silent Way in its mood but it’s given that lovely North African twist.
A substantial part of the rest of the album is filled with trumpet/bass guitar improvs (Janek Gwizdala is the bassist on these) and while the opening Embarkation acts as a fine intro to Wah-Wah Sowahwah, and Al Muharrag acts as an equally effective transition piece from the same track, for the rest there is, to my ears, just far too much bass guitar.
This is in no way to disparage the playing of Gwizdala, or of the lovely Laurence Cottle, who appears elsewhere, but at some point Ahmed should have said: “Enough!” Enough bass guitar solos, enough bass guitar accompaniments. It just starts to feel like an infestation!
I understand that making an album is a costly business, and that to get a lot of musicians into the studio adds to that cost, but, please, can we have more of the full band in the future, and less of the bass. That way, when we do get the occasional bass guitar solo, we can appreciate these fine musicians without wanting to throw something at them.