Ahmad Jamal's trio recorded between 1958 and 1961/2 has been both denigrated as 'cocktail jazz' and highly praised by such as Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley. Which is correct? This anthology, compiled from the original master-tapes of 'live' club performances by Orrin Keepnews, is the ideal way to decide.
Firstly, the group have a wonderful homogenity. That fine bass player Israel Crosby and Vernal Fournier on drums are a superb rhythm section. They swing like crazy but, at the same time, are both subtle and relaxed in ballads and up-tempo numbers.
The leader's piano, although influenced by bop, is firmly of the jazz mainstream. His improvisations are subtle, virtuosic when necessary, and beautifully structured. They are also delightful to listen to and have an immediate appeal with Jamal's great originality only becoming clear on repeat playings. These are not mere 'variations on a theme' but genuine re-creations which take full account of the mood of the originals. Just listen to 'All the Things You Are' and 'Gone With the Wind' for example.
I suspect much of the criticism this music is, paradoxically, because of its surface appeal to a wide range of listeners. The craftsmanship, togetherness, and musicianship of this trio are so are so understated as to be almost invisible and continue to give pleasure when more ephemeral talents are forgotten.
The selection of tracks from a variety of dates in Chicago (including the famous Pershing sessions), Wasington and San Francisco has been well made and put together in chronological order. The remastering couldn't be bettered and the booklet contains full discographical detail together with an interesting essary by Jim Macnie. Highly recommended.
One person found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?