Album Review: Blue Moon: The New York Session by Ahmad Jamal
Great, Based on 4 Critics
The Guardian - 80 Based on rating 4/5
Pianist Ahmad Jamal (a man even Miles Davis credited as a big influence) is now 81 – and he remains a genius at the art of motivic improvising, repeating a catchy theme (so listeners don't lose the plot) while transforming it with fresh melody. Here, Jamal combines eloquent originals with dazzling makeovers of American standards (Laura, Invitation, Gypsy and the title track), in the inspired company of Wynton Marsalis sidemen Reginald Veal (bass) and Herlin Riley (drums), with an incandescent Manolo Badrena on Latin percussion. Jamal's Autumn Rain opens the show with his trademark grandiloquent chords over a ticking rimshot groove, turning to rolling keyboard-length runs and a funk feel.
Still going strong at the age of 81, legendary jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal's love letter to his favorite Broadway, Hollywood, and Great American Songbook classics, Blue Moon, is arguably one of his most accomplished efforts since his Chess/Impulse! heyday. The Pittsburgh virtuoso, once credited by Miles Davis as a major influence on his career, shows that age is no barrier to invention with six exquisite reworkings of postwar standards, from a romantic orchestral take on the title track to Otto Preminger's 1944 film Laura to a delicately whimsical interpretation of Charlie Parker's "Gypsy. " Jamal's improvised cluster of chords remains as expressive and sprightly as ever, but it's when drummer Herlin Riley, who along with bassist Reginald Veal (Wynton Marsalis) and percussionist Manolo Badrena (Weather Report) form the backbone of the record, is allowed to let loose that they really spring to life, from the syncopated grooves of the epic 13-minute adaptation of A Life of Her Own's "Invitation," to the Latin rhythms on the title track and Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody'n You," to the surprisingly contemporary R&B beats of Golden Boy show tune "This Is the Life.
These days, there is less of the spare, meticulously placed simplicity that made Jamal a major influence on Miles Davis, although his piano style remains notably clear and direct. He still does extraordinary and fascinating things to old standards, too. There's a really weird treatment of "The Gipsy" here, which I just can't get out of my head. But it's as an impressionist composer that the latterday Ahmad Jamal really excels.
An unpredictable new set from the influential pianist. Martin Longley 2012 The veteran octogenarian pianist Ahmad Jamal has been playing an abundance of gigs in recent times, and this album acts as a timely documentation of his current working band. The sessions were recorded late last year in New York City, with Jamal’s stable quartet line-up. Bassman James Cammack might be missing, but Reginald Veal is now shoeing in seamlessly.Strangely, Herlin Riley’s brutally cracking drum contributions ram home a straight-ahead rock-style beat for much of the duration, and Manolo Badrena’s highly dramatic percussion can sometimes be rather disconcerting.