29. Ahmad Jamal / Chamber Music of the New Jazz (1955)
I find myself listening to the 'original unconventional' piano trio again and again, and I enjoy it more each time I hear it. It's light and refreshing, cracking with good ideas and smooth sailing without even a hint of drums. Why bother? Jamal has Israel Crosby doing great interplay on bass while also hitting the pulse, and Ray Crawford strikes and plucks the guitar for a similar effect. Crawford has some good solo space, too, while Jamal comps or plays with Crosby. The three musicians have effervescent chemistry and often finish each other's sentences, musically speaking. Jamal has enough room to use the piano trio for what it was meant intended. He does all kinds of inventive stuff and blocks or plays alone with his right hand, occasionally dropping boulders to make the point. You can hear he's trying stuff out, and uses the full range of the keyboard, too. The influential player and album were like a drop of water for the arrangers' seed, inspiring Gil Evans and Miles Davis to the heights of cool in the 1950s. Best part is when it comes to Jamal, this album was only the beginning.