With an opening track that drips like morning dew, composer Yazz Ahmed’s new album ‘La Saboteuse’ is both visceral and lovely from the get go. Ahmed’s career in jazz is expansive, both as a collaborator and a solo artist. She’s been seen at the side of the likes of Kamasi Washington and Lee Scratch Perry to name a few, and is gaining some serious traction with her newest release.
The real triumph of Ahmed’s record is that its tracks allow for plenty of empty space. The listener is invited, if not encouraged, to paint over the unfilled canvas with their own wandering thoughts. This kind of openness is perhaps something that we have lost in a great deal of modern music. Often, if we are given a whole host of tools, we are inclined to try to use them all, even if we shouldn’t. Archaeologist come music producer Tim Smit addressed this recently when he said that:
“in modern records there’s often no gaps. If you listen to stuff like ‘Strawberry Fields’, you feel like they are massive records. But they have gaps. We used to be able to fill those gaps”. A tenuous comparison perhaps; but it is certainly true that Ahmed feeds the listener drips of melody, which in turn allude to a much bigger ocean beyond.
The album’s title track is a silk road of horns and gentle percussion that unfolds slowly and gently, whilst ‘The Lost Pearl’ moves through the record with a smooth bassline.
‘Bloom’, which heralds the closing section of the album, reads much more like a familiar jazz track, with ‘Belielle’ also utilising a lot more of a busy instrumentation than the opening of ‘La Saboteuse’. However, it is in the unbusy, more frugal tracks that this album finds its true charm. ‘The Space Between The Fish and The Sea’ sums this wonderful composition up neatly; with a few beats on a xylophone, much is conveyed. Its very clever, and very moving music making.
As a complete piece, ‘La Saboteuse’ is cinematic in its story telling; it’s almost like an alternative film noire. Ahmed leads the way for her band with her skilful hand as a trumpeter but leaves plenty of breathing room in her wake. ‘La Saboteuse’ is a welcome addition to a jazz fan’s collection, and could be a lovely, meditative introduction to someone who is not familiar with this particular sonic area.