Ahmed Warshanna, Ishta Review
By Sylvannia Garutch
Guitarist Ahmed Warshanna might be a new name in the modern jazz guitar idiom, but he is undoubtedly a name that is destined to be remembered. His debut album Ishta was composed during a deeply personal time when his mother was battling cancer and ultimately succumbed to the disease. The music contained within Ishta is a lasting and heartfelt tribute to his mother and her memory.
“Alf Leila” has an exciting intro with a hip bass figure and a catchy chordal pattern from the piano. The original Warshanna composition is firmly based on the postbop style. Each section has its own feel and seamlessly flows from section to section with ample counterpoint. Dominic Ellis performs a solo based on hard-swinging rhythms and building motifs. Daniel Sperlein’s trombone solo is a rhythmic affair that leads to Hart Guonjian-Pettit’s trumpet solo introduced by a hip band figure. Warshanna’s solo is melodic as his warm tone methodically climbs in register. Pushing and pulling his rhythmic ideas against the pulse adds interest and is a fitting end to the solo sections.
“Intisar” has a flowing melody with audible influence from Warshanna’s Egyptian music roots. The modal melody flows with character and direction through the changes as the band creates a relaxed setting. Warshanna is a fine composer, and his ideas are clear and in focus. The band listens to each other and speaks the same language, and their joy in playing with each other shines through the music. Warshanna builds his solo with authority and shows that he is both an improviser and a composer and is well served by his musical companions.
Warshanna’s music is an amalgamation of combining East and West textualizations into his music. Raised in an Egyptian-American household, his late mother enrolled him in music lessons and exposed him to artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Umm Kulthum. This rich cultural experience is evident throughout Warshanna’s debut album. His prowess is immediately apparent not only through his playing but his depth of writing and original compositions. Ishta is a lasting tribute to a defining figure in his life and a beautiful offering to the listener who will ultimately be enriched by the depth and scope of his music.