Ahmad Jamal – Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse 1965-1966 – Jazz Detective/Deep Digs Music Group DDJD-002 – CD and Limited edition 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 78:00 ****1/2:
(Ahmad Jamal – piano; Jamil Nasser – double bass; Chuck Lampkin – drums; Vernel Fournier – drums; Frank Gant – drums)
Emerald City Nights; Live At The Penthouse 1965-1966 retains bassist Nasser, but has three drummers. Side A has another classic Rodgers/Hart tune, “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was”. In an extended jam (over 15 minutes), Jamal utilizes an improvisational approach with discernible spacing in between the swing downbeats. There are a variety of tempo adjustments as the rhythm accelerates. In a change of pace, “Who Can I Turn To” (one of three consecutive Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley compositions) is more contained with a bossa nova template. Jamal’s playing showcases the melodic essence of the song. The second part of this “trilogy” (“My First Love Song”) features the stylistic duality of Jamal. At first, it seems that the arrangement might be headed toward balladry with delicate phrasing. But there are always thundering chords bringing a startling emphasis to the trio dynamics. “Feeling Good” is more atmospheric, but still framed by vampy grooves. Jamal is very soulful and some of the articulation is ebullient, not unlike Nat Adderley’s “Work Song”.
Side C displays the contrasting musical vision. On the original “Concern”, Jamal alternates gossamer lines with medium-swing mode. His solos are both rhythmic and fluid (and may have a snippet of “Matilda”). New drummer Vernel Fournier shines on an extended solo. In an effective subtle performance, “Like Someone In Love” is more attuned to the popular melodic structure, but with a tender appreciation for melody. Side D is simply a rousing jazz statement. “Invitation” is incendiary with drummer Frank Gant’s propulsive technique. Jamal’s piano runs are furious and contribute to the high-octane trio dynamics. There is even piano string effects. Many would consider “Poinciana” Jamal’s signature piece and theme song. All of his skills are on display, multi-faceted instrumental excellence, seamless transitions and moving exotic motifs. In an atypical finale (under three minutes), Bennie Golson’s “Whisper Not” is spirited with a vintager barrelhouse piano style.
Kudos to Jazz Detective (and Zev Feldman) for finding and bring these live Ahmad Jamal (with his participation) trio performances to modern technology. The overall re-mastered sound mix (Sheldon Zaharko) is excellent. The original mic placement is stellar with impressive balance. Each double LP comes with a 12’ x 12’ booklet, including photos, interviews and a short history, The vinyl pressings (Bernie Grumman) are quiet with no hisses or pops.
Side A: I Didn’t Know What Time It Was; Who Can I Turn To?
Side B: My First Love Song; Feeling Good
Side C: Concern; Like Someone In Love
Side D: Invitation; Poinciana; Whisper Not.
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