A new label makes an auspicious debut with 2 live albums from Ahmad Jamal.
Ahmad Jamal – Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse 1963-1964 – Jazz Detective/Deep Digs Music Group DDJD-001 – CD and Limited edition 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 90:42 ****1/2:
(Ahmad Jamal – piano; Richard Evans – double bass; Jamil Nasser – double bass; Chuck Lampkin – drums)
A very special jazz label has been launched by archivist Zev Feldman. Jazz Detective (Deep Digs Music Group) has released their first two albums, featuring live performances by legendary pianist Ahmad Jamal. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa, he was one of the musicians that shifted the jazz world from the wild improvisation of bebop, to the more lyrical and structured cool jazz. Critics were split on Jamal’s influence and subsequent idiomatic expression, but musicians like Miles Davis compared him to Thelonious Monk. Jamal’s career longevity is astounding. In 1957, his live album At The Pershing, But Not For Me propelled him to stardom. His ability to interpret popular music into the jazz idiom was compelling. He continues to have a lasting impact open the jazz world.
Producer Zev Feldman has been extraordinarily successful in unearthing older unreleased jazz material. He is co-president of the archival label Resonance Records and has worked with the estates of artists like Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus and Wes Montgomery to produce new releases. His latest venture is Deep Digs Music Group. The first two vinyl releases (also available on CD) are live performances by Ahmad Jamal, recorded in Seattle, both part of 2022 Record Store Day. Side One includes two up tempo numbers featuring Richard Evans (double bass) and Chuck Lampkin (drums). The Rodgers/Hart song, “Johnny One Note’ has a funky, syncopated left hand vamp intro. The trio transitions to a broader counterpoint theme with a magnetic swing break. Jamal’s solo percolates, and he lives up to his “use all 88 keys” reputation. Lampkin has an extended solo with various tempos that begin in march time. Bassist Evans’ composition “Minoir Adjustments” is graced by a classical piano lead in. The arrangement is muscular and Jamal’s piano runs are indicative of this. With new bassist Jamil Nasser, Side B kicks off with a jaunty, blues-laden cover of Cole Porter (“All Of You”). There are punctuated riffs, with precise notation (with trills) and bold accents countered by hushed moments. On Johnny Hodges’ “Squatty Two”, the trio displays a frenetic energy with Nasser adding a gliding bass line.
Jamal and the rhythm section are in top form. Another Evans original (“Bogota”) opens with polyrhythmic grooves. Jamal intermingles up tempo 60’s time signatures into virtuosic runs, balancing sophistication and delicacy. Two reinventions of pop standards follow. “Lollipops And Roses” starts with a meditative piano and trademark flourishes. A waltz-time transition is hypnotic. On “Tangerine” he captures the breezy melodic essence but invokes a finger-snapping cool vibe with complex jazzy progressions. The energy is sustained throughout the set. “Keep On Keeping On” exudes gospel fervor with forceful chords and soulful flourishes. Jamal seems to execute a call and response between his left and right hands. His original composition, “Minor Moods” is steeped in classic 3/4 time signature variations. There are sweeping crescendos and a deft exchange with double bass, with just a touch of solace. The finale is Gershwin’s “But Not For Me”. In keeping with the overall mood of this performance, it also swings.
Side A: Johnny One Note; Minor Adjustments
Side B: All Of You; Squatty Too
Side C: Bogota; Lollipops And Roses; Tangerine.
Side D: Keep On Getting On; Minor Moods’ But Not For Me.
More information available through Deep Digs Music Group/Jazz Detective: