Yazz Ahmed is a British-Bahraini trumpet player and composer. Through her music, she seeks to blur the lines between jazz and electronic sound design, bringing together the sounds of her mixed heritage in what has been described as ‘psychedelic Arabic jazz, intoxicating and compelling’.
Yazz has led her ensembles in performances across the UK & Europe and further afield in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, USA & Canada. She has also enchanted audiences at major festivals such as WOMAD, Love Supreme, NYC Winter Jazz Fest & Pori Jazz.
Her career is studded with high profile collaborations, which have seen her record and perform with the likes of Radiohead, Lee Scratch Perry, Transglobal Underground, Susheela Raman, Tarek Yamani, Amel Zen, including a world tour with These New Puritans.
As a guest soloist and composer, Yazz has performed with Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra, NYJO, NYOS, and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama Jazz Orchestra.
Alhaan al Siduri, a suite written with support from Birmingham Jazzlines, premiered in October 2015 at CBSO Centre, Birmingham. This suite is influenced by Yazz’s Bahraini roots, drawing from the folk music of the Bahraini pearl divers and traditional wedding songs sung by women. The second performance of this suite marked Yazz’s debut in her paternal homeland, at the Bahrain International Music Festival, 2016.
Also in 2015, Tomorrow’s Warriors, with support from PRS Women Make Music, commissioned Yazz to write a suite inspired by courageous and influential women. Polyhymnia was premiered by the Nu Civilisation Orchestra at the WOW! Festival on International Women’s Day in March 2015.
During her year as an LSO Soundhub composer in 2016, Yazz was able to explore writing music for her newly developed quarter-tone flugelhorn. This is a unique instrument, enabling her to get closer to the spiritual nature of the ‘blues notes’ in Arabic music, deeply infusing her sound with that of her heritage.
The Planets 2018, a work created especially for a tour of planetariums, is a celebration of the centenary of Holst’s suite and modern astronomy. Commissioned by the Ligeti Quartet, Yazz’s composition Saturn was featured and performed around the UK in October 2018.
Continuing her explorations into space, Yazz was later commissioned by the Open University to write a solo piece inspired by the moon, which was performed at the OU Moon Night in December 2018.
Yazz’s second album, La Saboteuse, was released on Naim Records in 2017. The album made a global impact, clocking up multiple rave reviews and making many ‘best of 2017’ lists around the world, including Jazz Album of the Year in The Wire magazine, and achieving the number 18 spot in Bandcamp’s top 100 albums (all genres).
“This is enchanting, late-night music that floats on the liminal space between dreams and reality. And for sheer, unconquered beauty, there are few albums of any genre that reach these heady heights. Ahmed, in diving deep within herself, comes back up for air with a mysterious, wondrous artifact humming in her hands,” the2010s.net
La Saboteuse Remixed, released in August 2018, features collaborations with three of Europe’s eminent electronic DJ’s – Hector Plimmer, DJ Khalab, and Blacksea Não Maya. Four of the pieces from the original album have been reimagined, taking her music to a new realm and reaching out to a new audience.
This June 2019 saw the coda to La Saboteuse revealed: A Shoal of Souls. Composed as a reaction to Sophie Bass’s striking artwork for La Saboteuse, the piece is dedicated to the thousands of lives lost in recent years by those attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better future.
A Shoal of Souls was also featured as the soundtrack to an Apple iPhone 11 advertising campaign.
The limited-edition single was released via Bandcamp’s new vinyl fulfillment service in association with IXCHEL Records, bringing the La Saboteuse project to a close.
Yazz Ahmed’s long-anticipated third album, Polyhymnia, 2019, is a grand work conceived as a message to the world about the history and growing empowerment of women. The album is a series of powerful tributes to noted women in history, whose stories resonated and inspired Yazz: Rosa Parks; Malala Yousafzai; Ruby Bridges; Haaifa Al-Mansour; Barbara Thompson; and The Suffragettes. Rich in musical imagery, Polyhymnia explores the history of these women and their struggles and triumphs, evoking the universal human concepts of forgiveness, oppression, hopefulness, and power to overcome.
Yazz is currently touring across the UK, performing music from Polyhymnia with her 12-piece ensemble, and working on the production of an EP with her side project, Electric Dreams, recorded at performances in London and Newcastle last year.