Yazz’s granddad, Terry Brown, was a successful British jazz trumpet player and record producer who worked with some of the best jazz musicians of all time, including Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott and the original John Dankworth Seven. Jazz of the 50s and 60s was the soundtrack to Yazz’s teenage years and it was this music, and stories that Terry shared with her, that first inspired her to pick up the trumpet.
After attending Saturday morning rehearsals at the Cockpit, Yazz joined NYJO in 2000 and played trumpet and flugelhorn with the band until 2003.
Subsequently, as a freelance trumpet player, Yazz has recorded, performed and toured with art-rock band These New Puritans as a soloist and member of their septet, and also recorded and performed with Max Romeo, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the Manic Street Preachers, Swing Out Sister, Twiggy and the Urban Soul Orchestra, as well as featuring on Jools Holland’s show playing alongside New York artist, Joan as Police Woman.
Yazz has also played alongside Toshiko Akiyoshi, Rufus Reid, Kenny Wheeler, Steve Williamson and Sir John Dankworth. She works regularly with the London Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Jamaica and with her own septet, Ahmed Family Hafla.
In 2011, in addition to playing flugelhorn on Radiohead’s album The King of Limbs, Yazz recorded and released her debut album, Finding My Way Home, featuring bass virtuoso Janek Gwizdala and clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings. The album was a collection of original compositions and improvisations, exploring the sounds and rhythms of Yazz’s Arabic heritage, revisiting memories from her early childhood in Bahrain and contrasting them with pieces reflecting the classic British jazz which was her gateway into improvised music.
In 2012, Yazz represented Bahrain in London’s Cultural Olympiad, joining renowned musicians from the Arabian Gulf in collaboration with Transglobal Underground. This project, In Transit, was supported by the British Council and was performed in Dubai and London. That year Yazz was also involved in a cultural exchange project, Interplay, working with musicians from Britain and Sweden as both a composer and performer. The collaborators for Interplay included Denys Baptiste, Gary Crosby, Samuel Hallkvist, Ira Mogilevsky and Michala Ostergaard-Nielsen.
In 2013 Yazz was selected for Take Five Edition VIII supported by Serious and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Yazz also performed with her quartet, featuring Lewis Wright, at the Vortex, the National Portrait Gallery, and opened the Manchester Jazz Festival.
Yazz has recently written new music, commissioned by Tomorrow’s Warriors, to be premiered by the all-female Nu Civilisation Orchestra. This is to be performed at the 2015 Women of the World Festival and has been inspired by the first Saudi female film director Haifaa al-Mansour; Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child to desegregate an all-white elementary school in the south of the USA; Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Taliban for fighting for her right to go to school; African-American civil rights activist Rosa Parks; the Suffragettes, British women fighting for the right to vote; and jazz saxophonist Barbara Thompson who, as a performer, has battled Parkinson’s disease to continue making music despite suffering great pain.