Ahmad Jamal at Jazz Alley
As a listener and fan, you couldn't have asked for two better sets of music. Ranging from new originals appearing on recent recordings to such Jamal classics as On Green Dolphin Street and Poinciana, the full 90+ minute sets demonstrated to all that Ahmad Jamal is still at the top of his game, both on a technical and musical level. The biggest revelation for me as a musician was to see Jamal directing the changes in feel from the piano; the arrangements, while very specific and thought out, seemed to ebb and flow at Jamal's visual cueing, keeping the pacing of each tune well under Jamal's control. And yet, despite all of this, every tune felt like we were somehow hearing the trio play that song for the first time; one might even say that it felt loose. So -- controlled looseness? Not sure if this is the best way to describe it, but I think that this term applies here.
And what a treat to hear Idris Muhammad -- he is also someone who, though I've listened to him for many years, I've never heard play live. He's dynamic, tasty, and certainly skilled in a variety of styles and feels, and as Marc Seales used to say, "Everybody comes to see the drummer - EVERYBODY!" With James Cammack, who was a little more subdued that I would have liked, Idris creates a palette that never overpowers Ahmad, but also continues to challenge the time and rhythm. I know that Ahmad is not touring as much as he used to, but if you get the chance to hear him with his trio, you should not miss him. A true legend of the music, Ahmad Jamal certainly deserves the title of "master".