The trumpet and flugelhorn player has her hands all over La Saboteuse as Ahmed illustrates a classic feel with a modern rejuvenation that in turn, makes for one of the more stand out albums of 2017. “SHE WANTS TO KEEP ME SMALL”, describes the fourth side of the vinyl record where Ahmed spins in the sultry atmosphere of dense fog that clouds La Saboteuse throughout. The layers of heavy, drowning thickness behind the horns and the synthetic hums, revving, and even clipping that occurs as a multi-depth machine.
Ahmed begins this journey with “Inhale”, a subtle moving piece that shuffles in through the back of an ill-lit room. Not only is there objectivity behind the style and sound, but there is this eerie ambiance that follows closely behind. It feels as the shadows move in to become closer and closer before finally breaking tension with Congo-esque drums and gentle percussion that slowly erupts into a full band of horns, strings, and a rhythm section. The band feels fresh, unfamiliar almost; and without a real sense of varying sections. Instead, the band moves as a singular piece, resembling a snake of one working part to accomplish a single goal.
If the percussion moves, the keys follow; if the keys stray, as do the horns. It is a scene that resembles passion and ability in the highest form of musicianship. Not only is La Saboteuse an uncompromising album that echoes through Jazz’s very definitive history, but it becomes an example of how the emotion behind the music can be a driving force as well. Ahmed is not alone on the album, and she does showcase this as by letting the other instruments in the band become the leader of the pack. Taking into account, where the percussion and strings lead for “Al Emadi”. It causes a flex and stress on the band that is often times unseen in a jazz record where the percussion is usually pushed to the side or not the correct focus of a record.
There is however, a need in the album for breaks in the constant heat of action to break down and let the remainder become smoothed down. Shown on the more traditional standard, “Bloom” where the band has a little more swing to their stride and becomes not so much restricted, but more focused and direct. There is no reliance on atmosphere or abstraction present, but the track still shows how La Saboteuse can feature some of the more prominent talent within an industry.
La Saboteuse is an album that can fit many different hats as the atmosphere, the jazz instrumentation, and the simply raw style present moves it into an umbrella of categories. Through the smoke and the fog, there is a shadow that lurks and is showcased beautifully throughout Yazz Ahmed.