Ahmad Jamal: Four Classic Albums

Low-priced double CD collects Chamber Music Of The New Jazz, Ahmad Jamal Trio, Count ’Em 88 and Listen To The Ahmad Jamal Quintet

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These four albums cover a scant five years from the beginning of a recording career that began in 1951 and ended in 2019, yet fully illustrate the unique, minimalist style of an artist who was at once dismissed as a cocktail pianist and lauded as an innovator. Born to Baptist parents in 1930, Jamal was exposed to Islam in his late teens in Detroit and converted aged 20, one year before making his first album. So his entire recording career was under his Muslim name, Ahmad Jamal.

Chronologically, the four albums collected here are numbers two, three, four and 13, out of an eventual total of 68. The fact that, apart from Jamal himself, only five other musicians are featured, illustrates his lifelong preference for small groups.

His influence was great. In 1953 Dorothy Davis telephoned her brother, Miles, and urged him to get down to Chicago’s Pershing Lounge and hear the 23-year-old Jamal. Miles did so and was blown away by the pianist, so much so that echoes of Jamal may be detected in the landmark Kind Of Blue album Davis recorded some six years later.

The 38 tracks here are typical of the sort of thing heard in live performance by the pianist, a blend of originals such as Ahmad’s Waltz and standards such as I Get A Kick Out Of You along with the hard-to-classify The Donkey Serenade and Volga Boatman. All display the delicate lightness of touch and use of space between the notes that define the Jamal style.

Virtually any track in whatever line-up – piano, bass, guitar (Darn That Dream); piano, bass, drums (Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year); piano, guitar, bass, violin, drums (Lover Man) yields rich, deeply satisfying rewards. In short, a double album to cherish.

Discography
CD1: [Chamber Music Of The New Jazz] New Rumba; A Foggy Day; All Of You; It Ain’t Necessarily So; Medley; I Don’t Wanna Be Kissed By Anyone But You/The Alphabet Song; I Get A Kick Out Of You; Jeff; Darn That Dream; Spring Is Here; [Ahmed Jamal Trio] Perfidia; Love For Sale; Rica Pulpa; Autumn Leaves; Squeeze Me; Something To Remember You By; Black Beauty; The Donkey Serenade; Don’t Blame Me; They Can’t Take That Away From Me (74.49)
CD2: [Count ’Em 88] Volga Boatman; On Green Dolphin Street; How About You; I Just Can’t See For Lookin’; Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year; Beat Out One; Maryam; Easy To Remember; Just Love Sue; [Listen To The Ahmed Jamal Quintet] Ahmed’s Waltz; Valentina; Yesterdays; Tempo For Two; Hallelujah; It’s A Wonderful World; Baia; You Came A Long Way From St Louis; Lover Man; Who Cares (68.33)

Collectively: Jamal (p); Joe Kennedy (vn); Ray Crawford (g); Israel Crosby (b); Vernell Fournier, Walter Perkins (d). 1955, 1956 and 1960.
Avid Jazz AMSC 1432