Ahmad Jamal: The Complete 1962 At The Blackhawk / At The Blackhawk

Jamal's 1962 SF date is presented from possibly every angle in reissues of the complete gig on CD and the original LP on 180g orange vinyl

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There is a bittersweet edge to this complete recording of the Ahmad Jamal Trio live at The Blackhawk club in San Francisco, parts of which originally appeared on a single Argo LP.

Within a few months, Israel Crosby and Vernel Fournier were playing with the George Shearing Quintet and Crosby then died of a heart attack later the same year, aged just 43. Jamal was forced to wind up his trio and moved from Chicago to New York, where he took a three-year sabbatical from music. Fournier briefly rejoined him, but the initial magic was lost.

For this trio was indeed magic: original sleeve-note writer John Hammond said it was one of “a handful of rhythm sections that have approached perfection”. The opening medley demonstrates this perfectly, combining a subdued modal riff and sudden exuberant chordal flourishes from Jamal. Israel Crosby keeps the riff going with some added definition while Vernel Fournier metronomically keeps time. It proves that this is a group that can play anything it wants, and play it perfectly.

From then on, each track demonstrates the complete interplay and empathy between the three musicians, Jamal at his best when floating light-touch fingers over the keyboard, often using the highest registers to quietly spell out the theme and turning down the volume to achieve maximum effect. And every change he makes is echoed by bass and drums, all three totally in step with each other. All this comes together best on We Kiss In A Shadow – one of the tracks not on the original album – where Crosby delivers solos that confirm him as one of the first virtuoso bass men while Fournier steps forward as if playing talking drums, such are their tunefulness.

At times the glacial pace – as on Night Mist Blues – threatens possible disintegration, but it still affords a wonderful opportunity to hear exactly what each man does, and how well he does it. The contrasting next track, a high-speed Darn That Dream, makes the same point, just in a different way, while both On Green Dolphin Street and Angel Eyes reveal a pianist at the height of his creative powers, such are their tonal and spatial variety.

Following on from the success of live performances at the Pershing Hotel in Chicago and Jamal’s own Alhambra club in Chicago, this magnificent set completes a fine trilogy of live appearances. What a great reissue.

Discographically, the original Argo album is featured on the first CD; Darn That Dream and On Green Dolphin Street plus the whole of the second CD are previously unreleased. The most welcome, orange-coloured Waxtime In Color LP repeats the original album, plus On Green Dolphin Street. Recording quality is commendably high.

Discography
The Complete 1962 At The Blackhawk
CD1: Medley: I’ll Take Romance / My Funny Valentine; Like Someone In Love; Falling In Love With Love; The Best Thing For You; April In Paris; The Second Time Around; We Live In Two Different Worlds; Night Mist Blues; Darn That Dream; On Green Dolphin Street (51.43)
CD2: Like Someone In Love (alt 1); The Second Time Around (alt 1); Angel Eyes; Medley: Alone Together / Love Walked In; Smoke Gets In Your Eyes; I’m Old Fashioned; We Kiss In A Shadow; The Second Time Around (alt 2); Like Someone In Love (alt 2) (56.16)

Jamal (p); Israel Crosby (b); Vernel Fournier (d). The Blackhawk, San Francisco, 31 January, 1 February 1962.
American Jazz Classics 99155
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At The Blackhawk
Medley: I’ll Take Romance/My Funny Valentine; Like Someone In Love; Falling in Love With Love; The Best Thing For You; On Green Dolphin Street (24.26) – April In Paris; The Second Time Around; We Live In Two Different Worlds; Night Mist Blues (22.39)
Personnel, location and dates as CD.
Waxtime In Color 950737