Monday, October 11, 2004

Ahmad Jamal - Re-Evaluations: The Impulse Years (Impulse, 1974)

Ahmad Jamal only spent a few years with the Impulse label, from 1968 - 1971, but they were important ones in the pianist's career and development. Jamal burst onto the jazz scene in the 1950's heralded by Miles Davis and others for his unique piano trio style and for the use of spaces and pauses during performances to let the music breathe. After the breakup of that original trio during the 1960's, Jamal's music took on other characteristics - those of soft to loud dynamics that would increasingly become a part of his performing style.

This out of print two record set shows how Jamal and his new group were in a transitional stage during this period but were still creating excellent music. There are a couple of compositions by Antonia Carlos Jobim, along with a couple of compositions by the leader himself. Some standout performances on this album include a beautiful reading of the haunting Oliver Nelson standard "Stolen Moments” and a pulsating, urgent Jamal original entitled "Manhattan Reflections" where stabbing piano notes are juxtaposed against insistent bass playing to an excellent effect.

Another interesting performance is "Bogotá", taking up the entire third side of the record and allowing the band to stretch out in live performance. This piece also has Jamal on electric Fender Rhodes piano for some portions of the improvisation, showing that he was well aware of what was going on in the jazz scene around him and was willing to experiment.

While not as well thought of as his early popular records on the Chess label or his recent elder-statesman records on Verve, Jamal's Impulse recordings left some music of true value. If you have a turntable and an interest in Ahmad Jamal, this record is well worth searching for.

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