Friday, October 25, 2013

Ahmad Jamal '99

Photo © Daniel Sheehan. Source.
Let's start with an enlightening fact: do you know what ahmad jamal means? Obviously it is an Arabic name (long ago, in Pittsburgh, he was Fritz Russell Jones), but not just any name. Ahmad means highly praised "implying one who constantly thanks God" and jamal means beauty; In brief, Highly Praised Beauty. That is indeed the music of brother Ahmad Jamal.

You probably know that the new Ahmad Jamal album, Saturday Morning, is out. It's been described by Ahmad's website as an album "following on from Blue Moon...made up of the kind of ballads to which only he holds the key. Each one is a moment of grace, shining like a star in the sky of American Classical Music...with his light-fingered but rhythmic style, he sends us into a sensuous trance and leads us to a musical climax: a sound, which is pure groove." The album can be purchased here.

For this post, I have a 45 minute long video of an Ahmad Jamal concert to show you.

During the late 1990s Ahmad Jamal was as busy as ever, gathering momentum to rewrite his history with an appearance in Olympia Paris in 2000 that showed the man, celebrating his 70th birthday, can evoke the memories of Pershing and his boundless ability to surprise.

One year before that groundbreaking concert, which was later documented on CD by Dreyfus Records, Ahmad Jamal Trio (with the powerful, faithful James Cammack on bass and James Johnson on drums) went to Germany and gave the concert which you can see here.

The band takes off with Acorn, a tune Ahmad presented first at Montreal International Jazz Festival in July 1985. After this stunning opener comes Mystifying, a piece Ahmad recorded a year after the concert for his Picture Perfect album. Here, there are moments of absolute grace and divinity (at 15:00, for instance), followed by eruption of beauty, in another word, Pure Jamal.

What the German TV has credited as Sun Lililand must be Swahililand, a piece ornamented with elegant bass lines on the left hand which showcases Jamal's absolute mastery as a melody creator.

It's a real gem!



  1. Thanks, Ehsan, for such a splendid gift!

    1. I'm glad that the concert video was new to you and I must thank Neil McGlone who kindly digitized my old VHS tape for me.

      More coming next week including some really fantastic Cecil Payne-Ron Carter Quintet footage.