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Following up on `Blue Moon' Ahmad Jamal delivers a rare diamond at age 83. Will he ever stop?
on 30 September 2013
"Play like Jamal" Miles Davis used to instruct the keyboard players in his band, and always cited Ahmad Jamal as his great inspiration. Jamal might justify the title of "greatest jazzman still alive & playing" (though Wayne Shorter would also be a strong contender); ironic, as when pioneering the style for which he has become celebrated he was often dismissed by jazz critics in the 50s and 60s as "a cocktail bar pianist."
This latest release from the 83-year jazz giant demonstrates he is still the unassailable master of his craft, and shows no signs of retiring anytime soon. `Saturday Morning: La Buissonne Studio Sessions' was recorded in La Buissonne near Avignon, France and features the same quartet as 2012's `Blue Moon' ergo Reginald Veal on bass, Herlin Riley on drums and Manolo Badrena adding additional percussive flourishes to beef out the sound. In many ways BM & SM are companion albums, very much in the same style and with the same high production values.
The overall groove on SM is a little more relaxed than BM (maybe due to the Provencal recording setting?) and the frenetic percussive flourishes of Badrena are less in evidence, his playing often taking a back seat. Ahmad's delightful virtuoso playing dominates the proceedings, with no sideman. There are more originals - 7 in total - than on the 2012 album, plus a few standards which receive the classic Jamal treatment of extended improvisation, always inventive, replete with good humour and occasional surprises. Production values are superb with everything sharp, clear and in perfect balance.
Jamal is on record several times over the years confessing "I think about my music all the time" and it shows. His playing continues to astound and is, almost unbelievably, better than ever. More energetic and at the same time more subtle, you can never predict where his improvisations will go and to what new territories you will be transported.
To top off a stellar and exemplary career with an all-time best album at age 83 is a trick rarely pulled off in the history of music, but Jamal seems to have done it. Way to go, Ahmad. Respect.