Ahmad Jamal: Ballades

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Recent Ahmad Jamal releases have been quartet affairs, but for his latest outing, released in his 89th year, Jamal is flying solo, with only bassist James Cammack to accompany him on three pieces.

The mood is reflective and largely subdued, although Marseille, the title track from his 2017 set, accommodates some of that city’s ebullience. Because I Love You, an achingly beautiful piece, was composed as it was being recorded, a testimony to Jamal’s continuing ability to conjure up enduring melodies, while his lyricism on I Should Care is playfully tender but with enough muscle to give it strength.

Poinciana, a song most associated with Jamal at the Pershing Hotel in Chicago in 1958 but, to my surprise, actually written by Nat Simon in 1936, gets another makeover of light and shade.

Cammack comes into his own on the Jimmy Dorsey hit So Rare, and again on the medley combining a Rodgers and Hart classic with a Bill Evans number, but this is Jamal’s gig, which he performs with every trick in his still considerable pianistic armoury.

Discography
(2) Marseille; (1) Because I Love You; I Should Care; Poinciana; Land Of Dreams; What’s New; (2) So Rare; (1) Whisperings; (2) Spring Is Here/Your Story; (1) Emily (41.52)
(1) Jamal (p); (2) plus James Cammack (b). Paris, January 2019.
Jazz Village JV570140