AMN Reviews: [Ahmed] – Nights on Saturn (Communication) (2021; Astral Spirits)

[Ahmed] is the UK-based quartet of Pat Thomas on piano, Joel Grip on bass, Antonin Gerbal on drums, and Seymour Wright on sax. The stated goal of the group is to honor and reimagine the music of bassist / oudist Ahmed Abdul-Malik. Nights on Saturn (Communication) is their third release, and was recorded December 5th, 2019 at London’s Cafe OTO.

Consisting of one long track that encompasses Abdul-Malik’s pieces Nights on Saturn and Communication, the album is not only a showcase for the composer’s gifts, but also for the interpretive and improvisational talents of this group. If one were to briefly characterize this energetic set, it involves some very aggressive chord pounding from Thomas overlapping with wailing and droning sax from Wright. Grip’s bass playing walks through the changes and colors outside the lines a bit, while Gerbal’s is solid, inventive, and with a more traditional angle. From time to time, the group cycles through a repetitive pattern which serves to further reinforce the jagged nature of their exposition. They never quite go all out in free-jazz mode but flirt with the idea. Nonetheless, the real standouts here are Thomas and Wright, whose idiosyncratic playing is as jarring as it is enjoyable. And that is said without taking anything away from anyone – this is a true group effort.

Not familiar with Abdul-Malik’s works, I cannot say whether this album has accurately captured his sound or spirit. What I can say, however, is that I will now seek out the original works. Regardless, Nights on Saturn (Communication) stands on its own as a powerful and compelling release.

The album will come out on March 21.