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Ahmad Jamal Trio
Ahmad Jamal, Piano
Jim Cammack, Bass
James Johnson, Drums
Iridium Jazz Club
1650 Broadway, Corner of 51st St, NYC
(See Other Iridium Reviews)
Media Contact: Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services
By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 7, 2003
Jazz Promo Notes (Edited):
Ahmad Jamal is one of the most influential of jazz pianists, and his shadow looms large over the younger generation. Along with Charles Mingus and the Miles Davis of mid-1960s rhythm section, he set an example for changing tempo and rhythm from which the younger musicians have borrowed. His orchestral approach and his tempestuous changes of mood, his elliptical statement of ideas, and his emphasis on color and texture have all been integral to Jamal's playing for over four decades. Jamal consistently brings freshness and excitement to his music.
The Ahmad Jamal Trio, in this second set, was more than comfortable with each other. They were totally in tune with the next steps, every minute, when to blend, when to solo, when to backup, and when to go wild. Jim Cammack, Bass Player, has been with this trio for years, and played much more than backup. He provided vibrant and forceful, yet melodic and soothing, sounds from his bass. James Johnson on drums was just the right touch, and sometimes the Trio reminded me of Brubeck's music, so exciting and seamless. Jamal does not spend time talking with the audience. The music just flowed, no background information, no chitchat, just the way it should have been. There was an occasional reminder of the names of the musicians, but otherwise we were treated to the cream of the crop of Jazz, with occasional opportunities for applause.
Ahmad Jamal's band-leadership style was to stand and point at the soloist, when the piano fell silent, and James Johnson often took the lead. With a mike inside the piano, and frequent calls to the technician to raise the volume, Jamal mastered his keyboard. These three sparked each other. This first piece reminded me of Modern Jazz Dance, with syncopated rhythm, and a sensational solo from Jim Cammack. They filled the Club with the fullest warmth, offering a counterpoint to the rhythm. Jamal often changed the keys, lowering the chords. Cammack's bass was so strong, the music built like waves, and Cammack used the edge of the bass as added percussion. But, Jamal's piano was always the central force, clearly the leader. There were no standards to be detected for quite awhile, in this abstract series of pieces, progressively formed.
These "songs" could be called rhythmic creations. Johnson used a muffled stick on his drums, and Cammack used no bow. It was easy to see why Jamal was Miles Davis' favorite pianist. There were never any really sharp or percussive sounds, as were recently heard from other groups. All the edges were well rounded. Johnson's use of percussive symbols seemed to give this non-melodic music an occasional melody. At one point, I recognized the standard, They're Playing Songs of Love, But Not For Me. Jamal takes this piece apart and reconstructs it like a Picasso portrait. The next piece was wild and driving, perhaps improvisation, but tightly wound into the three instruments, and very well rehearsed.
Jamal mostly leads from the piano, and, in one piece, pointed his hand back to the drums. Johnson took the audience by storm with a huge percussive solo, which allowed him full self-expression, before Jamal moved in with lightning speed on his keyboard. There was then a very well appreciated solo bass portion from Cammack, that carried one theme seemingly endlessly. At this point, Jamal held the ending piano trills, while the bass and drums talked. The Jamal Trio was pulled into an encore, which usually does not happen in the Clubs. Jamal's piano was like a train, all speed, with background from Cammack and Johnson. When you see the Ahmad Jamal Trio listed to appear in the Clubs, get a reservation very quickly. This was a sold-out set, as were all of his weekend sets. I look forward to hearing Jamal and his Trio again soon.
Photo by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower Assisted by David Reynaga
Jim Cammack, Bass, and James Johnson, Drums