Jamal is a much simpler, more straightforward pianist than I had expected. I had heard and read about him, but have not previously come to grips with his piano playing. Now that I have, I find much to commend in his work. Reasonable economy of notes is combined with a pleasantly unpredictable treatment of melody.
Underlying all this. I detect an enormous Garner influence, both in harmony and rhythmic approach. In the more recent LP recording (1958) there are instances where I can fault his pedal work—I suspect that therein lies the criticism that he is a cocktail pianist. For one so accomplished in the technical sense I find this fault surprising and annoying; it must be done deliberately, as a challenge to those other pianists who concentrate on clear precision for their rhythmic effect.
Ahmad Jamal wastes no time in getting to grips with his themes. Probably the most satisfying performance is the slow treatment of “Black Beauty” on the EP, where great delicacy and precision of treble notes is combined with some firm block chording in the bass.
Harping back to Garner again, Jamal does not show the rhythmic strength in the bass that has become a hall-mark of every Garner piece. Nevertheless he opens a new field in piano playing, essentially listenable, and occasionally less obvious than the vociferous Mr. Garner. Bassist Israel Crosby is notable as accompanist in both sessions.
[Ahmad Jamal At The Pershing] But Not For Me; Surrey With The Fringe On Top; Moonlight In Vermont; Music, Music, Music; No Greater Love (15½ min.)—Poinciana; Woody’n You; What’s New (15½ min.)
London LTZ-M 15162. 12inLP. 35s. 9½d.
[Sounds Of Jazz] Perfidia; Something To Remember You By; Black Beauty; Don’t Blame Me
Fontana TFE 17114. EP. 12s. 3d.
LP.—Ahmad Jamal (p): Israel Crosby (bs); Vernell Fournier (d). Chicago, 16th Jan., 1958.
EP.—Jamal (p); Crosby (bs); Ray Crawford (g). 25th Oct., 1955.