Ahmad Jamal – Blue Moon

January 01, 1970





When you talk about the best piano men in jazz,
not including the name Ahmad Jamal in the fabric of the conversation is like
talking boxing and not speaking of Sonny Liston.


After all, this is the man whose cool, collected
phrasing on the ivories has garnered him the accolades of being second to
Charlie Parker in importance to the development of jazz following World War II
by renowned music critic Stanley Crouch, inspired Miles Davis during his salad
days, who fell in love with his “concept
of space, his lightness of touch, his understatement” and sired some of
the greatest piano trio albums in the genre, including his trio’s eponymous 1955
LP on Epic, 1966’s Heat Wave for the
Cadet label and his 1969 Impulse! masterpiece The Awakening.


Over 60 years into his astonishing career, Jamal
continues to spin gold from the bench of his baby grand with Blue Moon, his first collection of new
material in nearly four years and debut endeavor on the JazzVillage label.
Backed by a newly established working ensemble consisting of onetime Wynton
Marsalis sideman Reginald Veal on bass, drummer Herlin Riley – who got his
start with Jamal in the mid-‘80s – and former Weather Report percussionist
Manolo Badrena, the 81-year-old Pittsburgh native delves into the world of film
scores. Its an arena of which he is certainly no stranger, seeing two songs
from his acclaimed live album But Not For
–“Music, Music, Music” and “Poinciana”–utilized by
Clint Eastwood for his 1995 romantic drama The
Bridges of Madison County
. And on Blue
, Jamal displays a deep knowledge of cinema, reflected on eloquent
variations of such classic compositions as “Invitation” from the
soundtrack to the 1950 George Cukor drama A
Life of Her Own
, Johnny Mercer’s “Laura” from Otto Preminger’s
Oscar winning 1944 film noir of the same name and the album’s title cut,
originally written by Rodgers and Hart for the 1934 MGM musical Hollywood Party and previously
interpreted by such greats as Billie Holiday and Elvis Presley. He also
breathes new vibrancy into “This is the Life”, made famous in the
1964 Sammy Davis Jr. Broadway masterpiece Golden
as well as fantastic interpretations of Charlie Parker’s version of the
Billy Reid song “The Gypsy” as well as “Woody N You” from
Dizzy Gillespie’s 1959 Verve triumph Have
Trumpet, Will Excite!

Additionally, Jamal brings three of his own
pieces to the table as well, including an altered revision of “Autumn
Rain” from his 1986 LP Rossiter Road, the luminous “Morning Mist”
and the 11-minute chamber jazz meditation “I Remember Italy”, inspired by his many
trips to Lo Stivale over the course of his life.


Yes, Ahmad Jamal might be in the November of his
years. But in listening to the pure elation in his musicianship on this
magnificent late period classic, he still sounds as spry and adventurous as he
did when the last great Republican president held office.


DOWNLOAD: “Laura”, “This is the Life”, “Autumn Rain”,
“I Remember Italy”

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