Monday, July 29, 2013

Yazz Ahmed Quartet & Trish Clowes Tangent - Manchester Jazz Festival 2013

Yazz Ahmed Quartet, Festival Pavilion Teepee. Saturday 27th July 2013

My Manchester Jazz Festival 2013 kicked off with the multifarious sounds and rhythms of the Yazz Ahmed Quartet on an appropriately hot and humid afternoon in the festival teepee.  The quartet comprised Ahmed on  trumpet and flugelhorn, the excellent Lewis Wright on vibes, Asaf Sirkis on drums and Dave Mannington on electric bass. 

 It’s a funny thing about the vibes. I love them for the gorgeous atmospherics you can get, especially when the overall sound is reasonably sparse. However, I’m never too sure how well they work for improv when there’s a fuller sound and more going on. I find that the richness of the harmonics and the relative lack of attack leads to an all too indistinct sound. Nevertheless, Wright sounded great when he cut through and is undoubtedly an impressive player. Not having seen Ahmed before, it did seem like her playing was a little tentative on the whole, although her flugel sound did open up sweetly later in the set, perhaps inevitably then reminding me of the great Kenny Wheeler. Sirkis drove things along handsomely in his characteristic fluid way. All good.

Trish Clowes Tangent, 
Festival Pavilion Teepee. Saturday 27th July 2013
A song title reference to the great surreal novel ‘Master and Margueriata’ is no bad way to capture my attention, and the fast groove from James Maddren on drums, the open voiced sparse chord fragments from Chris Montague on guitar and the aggro-burst improv shots from Trish Clowes on tenor sax didn’t disappoint. Despite the sweltering afternoon heat, the band had real fire in their bellies, this translating through to a bitingly forceful and edgy set. I especially liked ‘On-Off’, Montague looping a choppy clipped phrase, then over-coating with tasty fade-in guitar textures.  Clowes’ raw howls and squeaks enhanced the ominousness perfectly. 

There were softer moments, such as the lyrical ‘For Pete’ inspired by tutor Pete Churchill, Clowes steering the medium swing changes with a strong tone full of the right sort of panache.  The impassive manner of Calum Gourlay on double bass signaled a grounded and true path to keep the players safe in the sometimes dangerous harmonic waters.  Yes indeed it was good. I’ll be looking forward to catching Tangent again for sure.

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