Wobbly Sauce

by Yazz Ahmed

My mind keeps drifting from thought to thought, past to the future, reliving the last few months and feeling a mixture of excitement, optimism and anxiousness in anticipating the coming weeks. I’m finding it difficult to be in the now, which is frustrating. Maybe writing this blog will clear my head.

I can hear the whirring of the CD player on the top shelf next to me. I’ve been listening to a great album called Sunburst, by Eddie Henderson.

The spinning and gurgling of the washing machine next door interrupts my train of thought while the softness of the sheepskin rug beneath me invites me to sleep…

Right, where was I?

The first memory that springs to mind this morning is one of a wobbly sauce I was served with chicken and mash a couple of weekends ago in Belgium. It was school dinners all over again. This was with These New Puritans, where we played at a little festival in Brussels following our show in Paris the previous evening.

The dressing room was in a school gym, curtained off into a small square with a basketball hoop above our heads, which was slightly unnerving when some of the band members found a ball to play with.

A  few days after I got home, it was International Jazz Day! I happily celebrated the day playing with the Human Revolution Orchestra at the Union Chapel in London.

It was an incredible night and such a pleasure to play with the band and to a very enthusiastic audience.

Here’s a bit more about the band if you’re interested:

http://www.humanrevolutionorchestra.co.uk/mission/

We had lots of positive feedback, including this rather lovely review from Jazzwise Magazine:

http://www.jazzwisemagazine.com/breaking-news/13565-the-human-revolution-orchestra-lift-spirits-at-union-chapel

And here’s one from the Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/may/04/robin-eubanks-human-revolution-orchestra-review-smoking-jazz-day-gig

Our next gig will be at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club on the 6th of September, which will also feature, trombonist, Robin Eubanks.

In my previous blog, I left you with news about my latest suite Polyhymnia, to be performed at the Women Of The World Festival on International Women’s Day. Well, the build up to the big day and all the hard work that went into it totally exhausted me. However, the concert was absolutely fantastic and a complete success. Phew!

The response from the audience was unexpected and overwhelming. Many were moved to tears. I’d like to quote a friend of mine who came to see us play, “I was truly inspired by the 13 piece ensemble. When it got to the fourth movement One girl among many about Malala Yousafzai, 
that's where something happened to me that doesn't happen very often at concerts. I had a surge of emotion, and felt I was listening to a creation that deserves to be heard by a far wider audience.
 Perhaps if they make another film about Malala in the future, they should include this piece”. This comment meant a lot to me and so did many others.

I’m extremely grateful to the Tomorrow’s Warriors for giving me this opportunity to create something, which I could have never achieved on my own.

I’m immensely proud of all the musicians involved and I have plans to perform the suite again and maybe record it one day.

Anyway, my friend, Tony, wrote a really lovely review of the concert:

http://thejazzbreakfast.com/2015/03/09/a-day-out-in-london/

The very next day I flew over to Kuwait with my quintet – Shabaka, Lewis, Dave and Martin – for a gig at the Museum of Modern Art.

After a six-hour flight, we safely arrived in Kuwait and were all pleasantly surprised to all be upgraded to the business-class rooms in the hotel.

The following day we went to the venue to have a look around – the show would be held in the courtyard outside the museum.

We were all ready to rehearse, however, there was no stage or power for us to start and no sign of the people who would be helping with this. It was horribly frustrating.

Eventually we decided to set up what we could and after a while some of the equipment started to turn up.

During the first few minutes of our rehearsal, the stage crew arrived to build the stage, “great!”, I thought, “things are coming together now”, however, I didn’t expect such a head swelling racket to be involved during the assembling of the stage: clanging of huge metal frames being hammered into place; people shouting instructions to one another; speakers being tested, and rock-star spotlights being hoisted above Lewis’s head, which interrupted the rehearsal more than once so that Lewis could run for cover.

It got so loud that we had to stop in the end, as it was impossible to hear one another.

After the massive stage was set-up, a few of the young local musicians came to play some music with us. This was a very welcome relief from the overbearing noise we witnessed earlier.

The musicians were really sweet and surprisingly shy – I hope we gave them a bit of confidence after our time together.

There is actually a little clip from our rehearsal (minus the noise) here:

https://instagram.com/p/0DZTvXTCS0/

The next morning at about 6:00am, Dave and I left the hotel for an interview on Wantan TV, which was basically Good Morning Kuwait or something similar.

Bleary eyed, Dave and I, along with two Kuwaiti British Council friends, strolled into the cool air of the television studio.

The set was pretty surreal: plastic trees; brightly coloured furniture, fake grass, furry red rugs; bridges linking different stages; and a kitchen. I had to take a photo.

After having a look around, I found the perfect spot to get a good shot of Dave with his bass. Stepping onto the panel of painted grass, sprouting a great plastic tree, I realised that the panel was actually soft and felt several crunches under my feet…I think I broke the light bulbs underneath! Oops. Thankfully the only other person who saw this was Dave!

The interview was fun. The host made us feel relaxed, despite all the angry shouting going on from the stage manger to the camera crew. We even played a couple of short improvisations, one at the beginning of the interview and the other later near the end.

You can watch the whole interview here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JX7cptwyjcY&feature=youtu.be

Later that night was the performance. As always, it was fun, inspiring and educational playing with the musicians in my band.  They are masters of their craft. I’m truly grateful for their commitment and the spirit they put into the music.

Probably the best moments of the night were when nearly every single audience member came up to us to say thank you. I’ve never played to such an appreciative crowd before and I met some really lovely people that night, some of which were trumpet students from the local schools.

My favourite comment came from a friendly Kuwaiti lady who told me how much she enjoyed watching a woman in charge and bossing the boys around.

I finished the trip with an interview for Bazaar Magazine:

http://bazaar.town/jazz-across-the-seas/?v=3

We had a great time in Kuwait and I hope to visit again, maybe as part of a Gulf States tour. That would be my ultimate dream.

Breaking news! I have a new video, filmed and edited by the wonderful Gersende Giorgio. It’s a little taster of one of the pieces featured on my second album:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6Iy6ibR5FE&feature=youtu.be

Our next gig will be at the new Ray’s Jazz, on level 6, in Foyles book store on Charring Cross Road on the 15th of May.

It’s a slightly different line-up – Ralph Wyld, vibes, Dudley Phillips, bass guitar and loop station, and Will Glaser, drums.

Here’s a bit more info about the gig:

http://www.foyles.co.uk/Public/Events/Detail.aspx?eventId=2527

We’re then playing at the Crypt on the 5th of June with the original line-up – Corrina, Lewis and Dave:

http://www.jazzlive.co.uk/index.html

Then we’re off to the Ukraine to play at the Alfa Jazz Festival on the 26th of June:

http://alfajazzfest.com/program2015

The wonderful Martin France will be joining us on this one.

That’s all for now, so I’ll leave you with a poem by Nadine Stair, I’d Pick More Daisies:

If I had my life to live over,

I'd try to make more mistakes next time.

I would relax.

I would limber up.

I would be sillier than I have on this trip.

I would be crazier.

I would be less hygienic.

I would take more chances,

I would take more trips.

I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets.

I would burn more gasoline.

I would eat more ice cream and fewer beans.

I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I am one of those people who lives prophylactically and sensibly and sanely, hour after hour, day after day.

Oh, I have had my moments

And if I had it to do over again,

I'd have more of them.

In fact, I'd try to have nothing else.

Just moments, one after another,

Instead of living so many years ahead each day.

I have been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, and a parachute.

If I had to do it over again,

I would go places and do things.

I'd travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over,

I would start barefooted earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.

I would play hooky more.

I wouldn't make such good grades except by accident.

I would ride on merry-go-rounds.

I'd pick more daisies