Recent listening, current

Sunday, August 4, 2013

120. Ahmad Jamal / At the Pershing, But Not For Me (1958)

Out of Jamal's handful of live albums, each one a gem, At the Pershing stands out to me as essential listening. It was originally released on Chess Records' Argo label and became a smash hit, a coup for the label that had recorded a goodly variety of music but not broken into the jazz markets held by Blue Note, Verve, Columbia, or smaller labels like Prestige. Widely influential, it's become a classic. Jamal's emergent style is the principal attraction but the trio consisting Israel Crosby and Vernell Fournier isn't to be fooled with. Their brand of jazz is superbly crafted and seamlessly executed. Cooperation and interplay between bass, drums and piano is supernatural. Listen to the sparse but beautiful "Poinciana," demonstrating Jamal's wise but playful use of space and silence while the rhythm section carries a percussive groove. Some of the selections clearly presage the work of Miles Davis' first great quintet. My only complaint? On the original liner, Jamal writes that he himself selected eight tracks of the 43 they recorded 16 January 1958. Gambit's Complete Live at the Pershing Lounge 1958 offers only 20 tracks. I did the math, and while Jamal is still playing dates, it'd be darned nice to have those missing tapes....

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