The delicacy of Jamal’s touch should not deceive the listener into thinking that he is nothing but a precious pianist. I sometimes feel that he overdoes this aspect of his playing, but it provides him with the flexibility which gives light and shade to his performance, something which is so often lacking among pianists today.
His greatest strength lies not so much in his technique as in the very imaginative way in which he approaches his pieces. I suppose “Time On My Hands” is fairly hackneyed, yet I felt refreshed from hearing his version, almost as much as I was by Garner’s treatment of the same theme.
The highly unconventional opening chorus of “All Of You”, in which he repeats a three-note phrase of the melody in the bass part during the whole of the first chorus, gives a pseudo-boogie effect reminiscent of Eddie Heywood’s much popularised work.
Ahmad is blessed with one of the most unobtrusive drummers in the business, Vernell Fournier, and he must still be smarting from the loss of bassist Israel Crosby, whose small-band accompaniment came close to Ray Brown’s in terms of style and rhythmic contribution.
Jamal’s own style is highly rhythmic, although he tends to play everything rather faster than I like. He drops into heavy chords and makes full use of the bass most of the time, which indicates that he is maintaining an allegiance to the Garner style which used to underwrite almost everything that he did. The long “floating” passages in “You Go To My Head” suggest that he would like to follow in Tatum’s footsteps, but that would appear to be an unattainable goal.
Time On My Hands: Angel Eyes; You Go To My Head (20¾ min) – Star Eyes: All Of You: You’re Blasé; What Is This Thing Called Love (21½ min)
Ahmad Jamal (p); Israel Crosby (bs): Vernell Fournier (d). Ahmad Jamal’s Alhambra, Chicago, June, 1961.
(Pye NJL47 12inLP 30s. 7d.)