Friday, September 6, 2013

Ahmad Jamal Saturday Morning Jazz Village 2013

Saturday Morning is a modern impressionistic search for artistic self discovery, arguably his finest work to date.
Brent Black /

I have long said there are a handful of artists where the traditional review simply doesn't work. You never review genius, you honor it and such is the case with Ahmad Jamal. The impact of Ahmad Jamal is no less significant than that of a Duke Ellington or perhaps Theolonious Monk.
Saturday Morning is the epitome of what it means to be an artist. The road to self discovery is a never ending path influenced by a myriad of conditions but it is the ability to harness these influences in such a uniquely personal fashion that elevates Jamal to the next level all pianists strive to achieve. Artists that credit the influence of Jamal's work  on their own include Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett just to name two and to give you an idea of his impact. Saturday Morning might best be described in reference to the cover art as colors you can hear.

Ahmad Jamal is the master of subtle nuances, nothing ostentatious and nothing that borders remotely close to the self indulgent path similar contemporaries have chosen. There is a spatial quality and a gift for artfully manipulating dynamics that may well be called the Jamal wheelhouse yet there are some surprises with Saturday Morning. "Silver" is a Latin infused tribute to the great Horace Silver and were it not for a solid working knowledge of the Silver discography it would be all to easy to think of this composition as perhaps a rarity off the Blowin' The Blues Away sessions. The impressionistic riff on the James Moody tune "I'm In The Mood For Love" is expansive in presentation yet deliciously straight forward in execution. The marriage of simplicity and complexity here as Jamal explores his own potential is striking. A handful of original compositions from Jamal have a smoldering Caribbean underbelly which is pure texture for a pianist that is often referred to as an amalgam of Errol Garner and Franz List.

Some familiar names and faces are still with Jamal including Reginald Veal on double bass, Herlin Riley on drums and the percussion master Manolo Badrena makes a most welcome appearance. A cohesive unit functioning like a well oiled machine, not a leader and three after thoughts. A former editor cautioned me on the use of terms such as brilliant, point taken. When you are an NEA Jazz Master then the blatantly obvious should in fact speak for itself.

An epic recording.

Tracks: Back To The Future; I'll Always Be With You; Saturday Morning; Edith's Cake; The Line; I'm In The Mood For Love; Firefly; Silver; I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good; One; Saturday Morning (Reprise).

Personnel: Ahmad Jamal: Piano; Reginald Veal: Double Bass; Herlin Riley: Drums; Manolo Badrena: Percussion.