Tag Archives: Yazz Ahmed

The Best Albums of Spring 2017

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Every three months, the Bandcamp Daily editorial staff combs through the stacks to present our favorite records of the year to date. This edition runs the stylistic spectrum, everything from jazz to pop to gospel to everything in between. And if you want to see our picks for the first three months of 2017, you can check them out here.

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On “La Saboteuse,” Yazz Ahmed Combines U.K. Jazz With the Music of Bahrain

Yazz Ahmed

The first indication of what Yazz Ahmed’s new album, La Saboteuse, might sound like actually appeared on her 2011 debut, Finding My Way Home. On that album, the trumpeter made skillful use of Arabic scales, and ventured cautiously into cosmic jazz.

On La Saboteuse, Ahmed expands on all of those early impulses, and the result is less an album than it is a statement of purpose. The influence of Arabic music remains prominent: a single melodic mode, or maqam, runs throughout the length of the recording. It also turns up on a series of interludes that pair the melodic sighs of Ahmed’s horn with the icy precision of Lewis Wright’s vibraphone.

Ahmed was born in Bahrain, and moved to London with her family when she was nine years old and La Saboteuse is a reflection of both places. The Bahraini influence emerges through those Arabic scales and the group’s improvisational methods; it also turns up in percussionist Corrina Silvester’s generous use of Middle Eastern rhythm instruments like bendir, darbuka, krakeb, and riq. Silvester’s drumming creates rich lines of rhythmic communication throughout the recording; on “Jamil Jamal,” the instruments’ chatter provides a backdrop for bass clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings and vibraphonist Wright to weave together thick threads of melody.

Ahmed’s work as a collaborator with artists like Lee “Scratch” Perry, Max Romeo, and Swing Out Sister also transcends borders, and her experience contributing to Radiohead’s King of Limbs informs La Saboteuse. The inclusion of a rendition of that group’s “Bloom” is the most overt example, but Ahmed employs a host of electronic effects throughout La Saboteuse. A Kaoss Pad transforms “The Space Between The Fish and The Moon” into an otherworldly ballad with wobbly melodicism, while a track “Al Emadi” reaps the benefits of smart in-studio editing by running melodic lines back and forth in opposite directions, one dubbed over the other, each pulling the attention in multiple directions. And then there’s the alluring “Belielle,” where the use of electronics makes it seem as if the melody is burning at the edges, its embers swept up in the sonic breeze of Naadia Sheriff’s Fender Rhodes piano. The net effect is mesmerizing.

We spoke with Ahmed about the evolution of her sound, how recording sessions involved road trips, the struggle with identity, and how those things informed her new album.

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This Week’s Essential Releases: Brazilian Pop, Video Games, and UK Jazz

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Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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The Best New Jazz on Bandcamp: February 2017

Best New Jazz - March

Illustration by Clay Hickson.

This month: music inspired by Indonesian Gamelan Orchestras, chamber jazz led by tuba, old-school compositions given new life in the present day, music made in the spirit of protest, music made in the spirit of joy, music from down South and music that’s at home in outer space. All of it is continued proof of the expansiveness of modern jazz.

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