Ahmad Jamal's In Search Of... Momentum
is a sterling example of the finest elements of a jazz piano trio. This band is so tight, it sounds like they grew up together. Listen, for example, to the flawless execution of the unison bass parts between James Cammack's acoustic renderings and Jamal's left-hand figuresit's like they're connected at the hip!
Likewise, drummer Idris Muhammad is unobtrusive, but always where he needs to be. A great trio sounds like it's one person with many ways of hearing things and this trio pulls that perspective off with aplomb.
At 72, Jamal is still searching for new ways to express his thoughts and feelings, and this album is a worthy document of that quest. His attack and articulation on the piano is as elegant and idiosyncratic as ever. He handles standards in a fresh and vibrant fashion, bringing six of his original tunes into the mix to flesh out the record. On the standards, the group sounds fantastic; they actually shed new light onto these pieces, while the original tunes stand up to the recent work of many "downtown" artists.
This group's muscularity is palpable from the get-go. These guys mean business, and I find that attitude to be very refreshing. Jamal has a great reputation to lean on, if he so chose, but he opts instead to further his oeuvre. The same could be said of Muhammad, and it is gratifying to hear that they don't rest on their laurels, but choose to push the envelope instead.
On this recording, Jamal seems to be deeply into the study of intervals; the way he shifts the phrase of a melody is stunning. Besides sheer technique, he also has the deep understanding of intervallic structures that is required to accomplish what he does with a melody line. Listen to the way he shifts the focus of the late vocalist O.C. Smith's interpretation of the tune "Whisperings" in such a way that the melody of the piece is never obscured by the warmth of the seductive human voice. The group masterfully compliments and supports the vocalist, but never allows him to dominate the focus of the music.
Jamal says "...we're all receiving vessels. We are not creative people, we are the reflections of creativity. So we have to be in tune with creation to reflect creativity." This recording documents the continuing growth of a superb group of souls who are 'in tune' with the natural forces. This is one solid groupcheck it!
Personnel: Ahmad Jamal: piano; Idris Muhammad: drums; James Cammack: bass; O.C. Smith: vocal (4).