Abnormally Funky’s trumpeter, Yazz Ahmed, is a rising jazz star and has performed with Manic Street Preachers, Radiohead and These New Puritans.
What inspired you to become a trumpet player?
I first picked up the trumpet when I was nine years old, around the time that I moved from Bahrain to England. My maternal grandfather, Terry Brown, was a successful jazz trumpet player in the ’50s and played with the John Dankworth Seven, Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott.
He was a great inspiration to me. I loved the sounds and the spirit of the music on the records Terry would play to me and thought it would be fun to learn the trumpet. He was, and still is, my hero.
Who are your favourite artists?
I would say my favourites include Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Al Jarreau and Dhafer Youssef, alongside Canadian musicians Ingrid Jensen and Kenny Wheeler.
What do you most enjoy about performing in a live wedding band?
I enjoy playing the huge variety of styles each gig might throw at you. I love the challenge of changing the way I think and perform to suit each musical genre. It’s also a lot of fun watching the guests having a great time and dancing without any inhibitions.
Can you give us a brief overview of your musical background ?
Well, I’m British-Bahraini – my dad is from Bahrain and my mum is English. I grew up in Bahrain and moved to England when I was nine years old, which is when I picked up the trumpet.
I graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2006 and since then have enjoyed a varied and exciting career as a musician and composer.
In 2012, I was lucky enough to represent Bahrain in London’s Cultural Olympiad, joining renowned musicians from the Arabian Gulf in collaboration with Transglobal Underground, the UK based dance and techno producers. This project, ‘In Transit’, was supported by the British Council and has performed in Dubai and London.
During November 2012, I was also involved in a cultural exchange project, ‘Interplay’, working with musicians from Britain and Sweden as a composer and performer. The collaborators for ‘Interplay’ included Denys Baptiste, Samuel Hallkvist, Ira Mogilevsky, Gary Crosby, and Michala Ostergaard-Nielsen.
I played flugelhorn and trumpet with Radiohead for the Live From The Basement broadcast and DVD in July 2011, which was an exciting experience!
I think a real stepping-stone for me was when I recorded and released my debut album Finding My Way Home in 2011. The album is a collection of original compositions and improvisations, exploring the sounds and rhythms of my Arabic heritage, revisiting memories from my early childhood in Bahrain. These are contrasted with pieces reflecting the classic British jazz from the 1950s and 60s, which was first introduced to me by my grandfather, Terry Brown.
I think what really encouraged me to release the album was when I was selected to open the Brit Jazz Fest in 2010, as the first British female trumpet player to lead her own quintet, at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s jazz club.
I’m currently working on my second album and touring Europe with These New Puritans.
Have you worked with any well-known artists?
I’ve worked with many well-known artists including Manic Street Preachers, Radiohead, Swing Out Sister and Transglobal Underground, but one artist I’ll never forget working with was Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.
He was a bizarre person to work with on stage that’s for sure. There were a few occasions where he would attempt to light his shoes on fire with the tiniest of lighters you can buy at any corner shop, which never worked fortunately.
His fashion sense was pretty unusual too – sparkly leggings, mirrors on his hat and shoes, and on one gig in Sweden, he sported a lovely dress with a lampshade on his head. The Lady Gaga of the Reggae and Dub world.
What do you personally give to the live wedding band experience?
Using live horns in the band will always sound better than keyboard samples. So I suppose I give that little bit of extra colour to the songs as well as being true to the original recordings.
What’s the feedback been like from previous clients and guests?
What’s your favourite song to play?
That’s a difficult question. I think I enjoy playing the disco songs more than any of the others. I love the snappy and sometimes complex trumpet parts, and all the songs are just so much fun to play and listen to.