Five ENJOYABLE Stars. This 3 disk nicely-appointed tri-fold cardboard package (2 music CDs and 1 video DVD) captures the pianist, innovator, leader, and DownBeat Hall of Fame member Ahmad Jamal, his legendary ensemble, and featured guest multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef playing in 2012 to a packed house at the L'Olympia in Paris France. His ensemble includes longtime associates Reginald Veal on double bass, Herlin Riley on drums, and Manolo Badrena on percussion. Based partly on his popular Grammy-nominated "Blue Moon" CD, the DVD contains performances of the total 14 standard and original songs from the concert, while the two CDs are broken down into 8 and 6 songs respectively for listening pleasure. The CDs are great but the DVD concert performance is fabulous, showing how tight the ensemble is and how Jamal exhibits control over the dynamics of each song with a simple wave of his hand or pointing a finger calling for a solo from each member of the ensemble. The cinematography work from various angles with many closeups is superb, as is the clear balanced soundscape.
The `best of the best' begins with an awesome minor-themed "Autumn Rain" building and releasing tension as Jamal directs the ensemble's shadings with hand signals, drawing repeated applause from the audience as the tension builds to a taunt release, over and over. "Blue Moon" has a 5-note pedal point beat that allows Jamal to switch from shimmering to hip phrases for extended periods. Percussionist Manolo Badrena shines expertly and humorously on the planned breaks between the musical phrases on Billy Reid's "The Gypsy". The beautiful ballad "Laura" includes a two-note refrain alluding to "Call Me", as Jamal takes the song for a thrill ride with Veal bass in support. Multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef then arrives on stage for 4 songs, initially turning the stage into a steaming rain forest of sounds and rhythms on "Exatogi" and "Masara" and then brings it home, vocally, with blues renditions of "Trouble in Mind" and "Brother Hold Your Light", all with the superb assistance of Jamal and most of all the bass, drum, and percussion section. Outstanding performances by the Ahmad Jamal ensemble and Yusef Lateef. My Highest Recommendation! Five SWINGING Stars! (3 disks: 2 audio and 1 complete concert video of 13 total songs; Total time-102:20.)